Canby High teacher Caitlin Henden learns new ways to help kids get excited about the space program once again

Canby High School teacher Caitlin Henden didn’t have an out of this world experience this summer but did have the next best thing.

She spent two weeks in June undergoing the simulated astronaut training and development program at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

She was one of 210 educators from around the world attending the program through the Honeywell [email protected] Academy Program.

“The purpose of the camp was to bring teachers together, to network, to get kids excited about the space program again,” she said.

It was a valuable experience networking with teachers who have been in the field a lot longer than she has, Henden said.

“It was great to talk with them and how they handle things, how they keep their kids excited about science in the classroom.

She learned many things to take her own teaching to the next level, she said

They trained like astronauts, learning new, innovative teaching skills in science, technology, engineering and math.

Henden will start her third year of teaching this fall. She teaches in the CHS science department, mainly biology, as well elective classes in natural resources and geology.

Henden and the other teachers went through high-performance jet simulations, space mission scenarios, land and water survival and interactive flight dynamics programs.

They did not get the airborne weightless treatment, but a couple of other demonstrations gave them a good idea, she said.

They did get to do a simulated space walk.

She worked in group of 15 teachers. They planned their own missions, down to mission patches,

“In one mission, I was the sole communicator between the command station and the shuttle,” she said. “So if something went wrong on the shuttle, it was me that was responsible to communicate the issues to command station and figure out a solution to communicate back to the shuttle.”

The teachers also met Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson, retired astronaut and veteran of five shuttle missions.

The program also featured author Homer Hickam. The movie “October Sky” was based on his true story as a coal miner’s son who took up rocketry against his father’s wishes and eventually became a NASA engineer.

The hardest part she said was putting everything back in her luggage to come home.

The space academy wasn’t her only summer adventure. She was married July 27 to Josh Russell at her parent’s home outside Canby. Both graduated from Canby High School in 2004.

Henden looks forward to showing her students one of her academy mementos.

Henden and the other teachers each received their own blue flight suit.

“I don’t know how official it is,” she said. “It’s as official I will get.”

She plans to wear it the first day of school.

“It’s nice I don’t have to pick out my first day of school outfit. I will wear that. It will be perfect.”

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