Over the summer holidays, St Monica’s College student Mary Blee and science teacher Wanda Metcalf represented the Far North as they travelled to the USA for a once in a lifetime opportunity at NASA Space School.
‘Space School’, officially known as the CASE Space School International Study Program, provides students with an opportunity to experience leading STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) learning environments, from in-class to out-of-class settings, and is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity according to St Monica’s science teacher Wanda Metcalf.
“The opportunity arose because our school is a member of The Alliance of Girls’ Schools Australasia, which is a leading voice for the advancement of girls’ education,” explains Wanda, who said St Monica’s College was the only school in the region offering the program.
“They advocate for and support the distinctive work of girls’ schools in their provision of unparalleled opportunities for girls. The Alliance contributes to the development and promotion of education in Australasia and the empowerment of young women to reach their potential and become influential contributors to our complex and changing world.”
Wanda and Mary spent two weeks in the US, first stopping at NASA’s US Space and Rocket Centre (USSRC) in Alabama, where they had the opportunity to experience life as an astronaut.
“Our journey started at the USSRC where we were trained for missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and trained for landings on the moon and Mars,” tells Mary.
“We had the opportunity to experience what astronauts had to go through during their missions and normal days in space inside a replica of the ISS. We also met and had dinner with former NASA astronaut Nicole Stott. Whether we were operating landings at the Missions Control Centre or landing a spacecraft onto the moon in a spacecraft simulation, it was an experience like no other.”
Mary also observed outer space at the planetarium, experienced the feeling of zero gravity and attempted to moonwalk on a one-sixth gravity chair, all while networking with like-minded teens from around Australia and New Zealand.
Next stop was Houston, Texas where the duo met with motivational speakers, learnt tips from best-selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens and explored local science museums.
“Wandering through the exquisite Houston Museum of Natural Science and extracting DNA from cells at the DeBakey Cell Lab at the Houston Health Museum were the final memorable experiences of this extraordinary trip,” recalls Mary, who strongly encourages other science-loving students to consider the trip.
“I never knew I could train to be an astronaut at such a young age until I went on this camp. Words cannot describe how much fun I had and how badly I wish to do it all again,” tells the Year 9 student.
“I hope to apply the skills I learnt at NASA when I pursue my career path in astronomical science and engineering. As the CASE Space School International Study Program states, ‘Every expedition starts with a dream, an idea, a first step and the urge to explore’.”