‘Everything in space is just cooler’

DOWNEY − For students all over Downey, summer vacation means everything from beach bonfires and amusement parks to video games and movie dates. But Downey science teacher Tri Tansopalucks may have bested his students this summer as his vacation included something even 12-year-olds would envy -- space camp. From June 11-17, Tansopalucks along with more than 200 educators from around the world flew to the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama to participate in the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program.

With a team of 17 other educators, Tansopalucks, who teaches sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade at West Middle School, underwent 45 hours of classroom lessons, lab assignments and hands-on training from both crew workers and NASA personnel.

For Tansopalucks and the other “teachers turned students,” the week of flight simulations and lunar space missions was provided to inspire more science, technology, engineering, and math in the classroom.

“Everything in space is just cooler,” said Tansopalucks, 39. “We learned about gravity and how the space shuttle enters the earth’s atmosphere at 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. We even used astronaut apparatus. It’s wasn’t like Disneyland...they have Tomorrowland, but the rockets aren’t real. This was the real deal.”

Teaching in the Downey Unified School District since 2000, Tansopalucks is now a master teacher for Project Lead the Way, where he trains other teachers how to incorporate STEM curriculum in their classrooms. Like Tansopalucks, all of the teachers at the space camp were noted for going above and beyond in the classroom.

Tansopalucks was chosen by Honeywell and granted a full scholarship to the academy after an extensive application process. In its 10 years, more than 2,000 teachers have graduated from the program.

“It’s about making connections -- real world connections,” said Tansopalucks, who still communicates with his camp classmates via Facebook. “It was a really neat experience. If I can’t be the expert [in the classroom], at least I can share where they are and what they do.”

For more information on Tansopalucks’ future student projects, follow him on Twitter at @ttansopalucks.



Published: June 26, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 11