Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Homeschool Camp-In at the Virginia Air and Space Center

What a fantastic program. Seriously, if you get a chance to do this, do it. It was so much fun.

This was the program, for the 4th and 5th grade class that Benny was in:

1. Stomp rockets. They made stomp rockets with foam tubes, plastic eggs, paper and tape. Their teacher gave them freedom to do whatever they liked with the fins. Then they went out in the big part of the museum and did many many launches, trying to stomp their rockets, trying to get them into the pickle buckets that had been set up as "planets." Very cool! Here they are working on the rockets:

2. Mars Colony. The teacher talked about how a Mars Colony would need different parts to survive and support itself -- a science and research center, a recreation center, a food and shelter center, and... I can't remember the other one! But the kids were divided into teams and given boxes with different cool materials to create their section of the colony. Then they each gave a little presentation about their creations.

3. Robots. The kids got to build cool robots with Robotix parts, giant beautiful bins of all kinds of parts and motors. After they'd built their robots and figured out how to make them go forward, backward, and turn, they had robot wars where they played a type of soccer with the robots -- trying to push a little block off a table through a goal before their opponent did. This was FUN!


Robot war:

4. Space Freeze. The children went out of their classroom to see a cool demonstration with liquid nitrogen. Everyone loves liquid nitrogen! Here's Benny getting to freeze a carnation and then crush it up. Very enjoyable.

5. Rockets. After the demo, we went back to the classroom and built real actual model rockets with real actual parts. This was very exciting! There was feverish measuring, gluing, and decorating. Then we left the rockets there, to be fueled and launched in the morning.

6. Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream. At 10 pm, the longsuffering and wonderful ladies in charge of this event made ice cream in the cafe using liquid nitrogen in huge buckets of cream and sugar. The kids LOVED this. Here's a picture of the concoction being made:

Finally it was time to bed down for the night. I had brought the air mattress, at great cost to my convenience in dragging all our stuff in from the car. I had also remembered the air pump, amazingly enough. However, I did not remember to *charge* the lousy, pea-pickin' air pump, and so it immediately died when I turned it on. I did experience a moment of sadness, yea in the midst of this very exciting and valuable educational event, when I realized I would be sleeping on the cement floor of the museum, protected only by my great grandmother's quilt.

Fortunately, my socially adept son procured a pump for us by asking other people with air mattresses, and we were in business. Benny pumped it up himself, with his foot. The children were allowed to pick anywhere in the museum to sleep, including under airplane wings, next to space capsules, and all kinds of exotic locales. Benny chose to set up next to the Christmas tree that was decorating the museum. Nice and bright, all night. Okay, so here is our campsite:

Here was my view, looking up, when I woke up in the morning. This bank of windows probably had something to do with the fact that I was cold all night:

Apart from my anti-camping whining, the experience was quite wonderful. And the best part of all was the next morning when we launched the rockets. I have a video, but it's still on my camera. Here's the picture I took with my phone:

Thank you, huge and amazed thank you to Louise Schaeffler and the Virginia Air and Space Center for a program that went far above and beyond my expectations. There were families that had come from as far as Lynchburg, and it was totally worth it! A brilliant job by the teachers and organizers, and a wonderful experience for the children. Please do this again -- we will be back!


  1. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Wish I had known about this, looks like something we would have enjoyed. Glad ya'll had a blast!

  2. I think they'll probably do it again! It was very well-attended and there was a wait list. If you email the museum to get on an alert list for upcoming homeschool programs, I'm sure they'll be happy to do that.