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Teacher inspired by space academy experience
Joanne Anderson, a teacher at Don Pedro Elementary School in Ceres, has returned from the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program full of enthusiasm and new ideas to teach science and math.

Anderson was one of 288 teachers awarded special scholarships to attend the program at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. The program is designed to provide teachers with new and innovative techniques to educate students about science and math as a way of inspiring students.

Anderson flew to Alabama on June 27 and returned a week later.

"We basically played astronaut kids for a week," said Anderson. "It was so much fun."

The Turlock resident participated in a variety of classroom, laboratory and real-life astronaut training sessions, which are linked to science and math teaching standards, including:

• A high-performance jet simulation;

• Scenario-based space missions;

• Land and water survival training;

• State-of-the-art flight dynamics program.

"It was an eventful, packed week," said Anderson. "Very little down time."

On training days Anderson was off at 7 a.m. in her astronaut suit designed to make the experience seem more real and didn't return to her room until after 10:30 p.m.

Anderson and her team of 17 others from five countries participated in two Space Shuttle simulations. Anderson was "capcom" in charge of communications between Houston and the shuttle. She also participated "aboard" the shuttle as a commander.

Other activities included: air traffic controller math, building bottle and engine rockets, designing a lunar settlement and testing items for a lunar station,predicting how toys will work in space, engineering a heat shield, living and working in space, designing a mission patch for her team (18 teachers from five countries, astronaut simulation and mission training and zip line and helicopter "crash" water rescues.

Retired Space Shuttle astronaut Don Thomas taught the group that he didn't always get things right the first time. Other guest speakers included Homer Hickam, author of "Rocket Boys" on which the movie "October Sky" was based; and Ed Buckbee, author of "The Real Space Cowboys" and the first director of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

"The experience taught me that you're never too late to learn," said Anderson. "I hope to instill in every child that there is always something new to learn and to pursue their dreams, no matter what their age."

Space used to be a sixth grade curriculum in Ceres, said Anderson, but was eliminated about five years ago. Because of her Academy experience, Anderson hopes to plan a day for intermediate students to do fun activities that focus on science and math. She also hopes to start a Career Day that incorporates help from the Challenger Learning Center in Atwater.

Anderson recalls wanting to be an astronaut when she was young and took a great interest in the space program since the sixth grade. She snagged the scholarship through a rigorous application that began in December and continued with a review process involving competing teachers from around the world. All costs of attending the program, including tuition for the six-day program, round-trip airfare, meals, accommodation and program materials, were underwritten by Honeywell and the contributions of more than 1,300 Honeywell employees.

Since the program's inception, Honeywell and its employees have sponsored 1,100 scholarships for teachers from 36 countries and 50 U.S. states.