Iowa Teacher Brings Space Camp Adventures to Classroom

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- One lucky Iowa teacher had the opportunity to travel to space camp and bring her experiences to this year’s lesson plan.

Ronda McCarthy teaches science in the fourth and fifth grades at St. Theresa Catholic School and focuses on science, technology, engineering and math lessons.

McCarthy uses STEM lessons and hands-on-teaching to get her students excited about creating apps, working with robotics and understanding life science.

Incoming fifth grader Terra Duerksen said she likes the way McCarthy teaches class.

“You get to have experiences that you might not ever get again, and you just get to do all the fun stuff that some kids don’t actually get to learn,” Duerksen said.

While at Educators at Space Academy this year, McCarthy discovered some projects to bring back to the classroom.

“One of the first lessons we are going to do is build these rockets and shoot those off. And then we are going to do some coating, some raspberry pie-work where we are creating, designing and engineering some things. We also are going to do some very specific space missions. We are going to learn a lot about everything I learned down there, back here in the classroom,” McCarthy said.

Incoming fifth grader Keaton Schwader said he's excited to build rockets this year and balance eggs on them, like McCarthy did at space camp.

McCarthy plans to wear her space suit every Friday during the school year while working on space related lessons.

During McCarthy’s week at space camp, she wrote 50 postcards to all her students asking them to answer various questions about space.

“And mine said 'what is a solar eclipse?' And it’s the moon going over the sun. I answered the question right without even research,” Duerksen said.

Duerksen hopes to one day be the first woman to travel to Mars.

“My favorite thing is having a student come in at the beginning of the year and say ‘I’m no good at science.’ And then by mid-year they are so excited, and so empowered and they feel like they are really good at these [STEM] subjects”, McCarthy said.

There were a total of 200 teacher from across the world that went to space camp from June 14th to June 27th. McCarthy is the only Iowa teacher to take part at the Educators at Space Academy this year.