Musician on a Mission

Team Kibo

This summer I had the opportunity to attend the International Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama with my fellow State Teachers of the Year. For the camp, I was assigned to Team Kibo along with other State Teachers of the Year and teachers from Columbia, Canada, Singapore, Germany, and New Zealand. Along with getting to know this amazing group of educators, I was excited to discover that my Crew Trainer was a fellow Louisiana educator, Spencer Kiper. Not only was Spencer an awesome Crew Trainer as he guided us through all of our activities, he is also the 2016 National Aerospace Teacher of the Year. Geaux Louisiana!

As a music educator, I had three goals for my Space Camp experience. The first was to discover ways that I could integrate the lessons and activities from Space Camp into my music curriculum. The second was to look for lessons that I could share with my fellow Woodlake Elementary teachers. The last was to discover how music training could benefit students interested in a career at NASA. Although these were lofty goals, I am proud to say “Mission accomplished!”

One of the lessons that I am looking forward to integrating this year was an activity called “Strange New Planet”. You can find the lesson at the following site:

While the purpose of the activity was to teach students about planetary observations, I noticed that our instructor often varied the speed for the “spacecraft” to make observations. I could easily add moving to a steady beat and varying the tempo for this activity.

For my second goal, I’m planning to share a lesson called “Pocket Solar System” with the third grade teachers at my school. Not only do the third grade students study the planets, but this activity also incorporated the use of a number line and fractions. Check out the lesson and video of the activity at the site:

As for my third goal, I had to do a little more digging to accomplish this mission. While at Space Camp, the director of the program announced that she had been a music major. In addition, we were told that Wernher von Braun, the former director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, was also a musician and a composer. As a music educator, I know that music develops skills for creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. All of these would definitely be necessary for working at NASA. However, I discovered that my musical training had even greater benefits than those mentioned.

One of the activities I was most excited to take part in was the Lunar Mission. For our mission, I was the Pilot that had to bring four astronauts to the moon, and bring the four astronauts currently working on the moon home. When I first saw the Orion shuttle, I got nervous as I looked at all of the buttons and switches. I was given a book that had the actions I needed to take and the time that each action needed to occur. We were able to practice nine minutes of the mission. The next day we had to complete the full hour and a half mission. Although I was worried about fulfilling my role, I quickly began to see how my percussion background was an asset. The binder of directions was like a score, our Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) was like a conductor, and the myriad buttons and switches were my instrument. While playing my percussion instruments, I’m thinking about what I’m playing in that moment while preparing for what will be coming next. I’m also aware of my part and how it relates to all of the other instruments. These skills were extremely helpful while performing my role of Pilot. In the end, our mission was a success and Team Kibo won the award for Best Mission. We definitely performed like an orchestra as we brought each of our skills and backgrounds into beautiful harmony.

As we are about to embark on a new school year, I go forward confident in the knowledge that my students are gaining the knowledge and skills to be the “Space Cowboys” of the future.

Pictured with Spencer Kiper of Shreveport. He’s the 2016 National Aerospace Teacher of the Year!
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