Creating Craters and Chasing Comets — Three Days of Science and Fun

November 8, 2016
Patrick Fitzgerald
Staff at the Kennedy Space Center

Nestled on the banks of the Guadalupe River, in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, is Mo-Ranch. A summer camp, conference center, and oasis of beauty. I imagine we could all describe our sites using similar words. Like you we offer swimming, hiking, ropes course, arts, singing, etc. And just like you we are looking for new ways to engage current campers and attract new ones.

In July, I received an email from ACA to apply to attend a professional development opportunity just for camp staff sponsored by NASA and the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), outside the Kennedy Space Center. The premise of the event was that camps are a great place to get kids excited about science (how many of us offer nature programs?). It makes sense — we have a captive audience, an excited staff, and (in many cases) clear night skies.

Needless to say, I applied. I was one of approximately forty staff selected to participate in three days of learning ways to excite campers about the Solar System. We "figuratively" discovered new planets, we blasted flour, cocoa powder and oatmeal into craters, we learned about regolith (space dust/dirt), asteroids, and the many incredible things that NASA scientists are doing. 

One of the highlights of the trip was learning about the OSIRIS-REx mission. This is a mission to chase down the asteroid Bennu, retrieve a sample and return the sample to earth! This will help us better understand our early solar system and teach us about planetary history.

It is hard to describe how incredible this experience was — from the quality of the materials and lessons taught by NASA scientists presented to the opportunity to share ideas with other camp professionals. Across the board, this was one of the best professional development opportunities that I have had with ACA.   

Check out more resources and program activities from ACA's strategic partnership with NASA.   

Patrick Fitzgerald is the Director of Outdoor Education Ministries at Presbyterian Mo-Ranch Assembly.

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