Space Camp: Turning Blunders Into Best-Practice

By Maureen Look-Ainsworth, Wisconsin Teacher of the Year — Imagine spinning in a Multi-Axis Trainer, experiencing microgravity and similar experiments that the astronauts went through in training to go into space!

I got a chance to participate in these activities as the 2011 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year at SpaceCamp in Huntsville, Alabama, one of the nation’s education space centers for NASA. Teachers of the year from around the nation and 14 international countries participated.  

In one of the experiments, I put on a space suit (not quite the large bulky one that astronauts use), I was tethered to a chair, put on real space gloves and attempted to piece together a scaffolding of rods and center pieces with 16 holes, somehow managing to hold onto the spacecraft as we experienced microgravity. I tried but was sometimes unsuccessful, floating helplessly, profusely sweating inside the suit, losing seconds on the clock as I blundered my way through this new experiment.

I took this last activity to heart as I prepared for the upcoming year of teaching at a STEM academy in a new, unchartered position. 

Sometimes I blunder my way through my education whether it be the lifelong learning or throughout university experience (perhaps we all blunder…).

I found refuge in a book that I am reading, “Brain Rules” by John Medina, that might also help you in preparation for this upcoming year in your educational endeavor. My endeavor is to be the most effective, highly trained educator I can possibly be and to meet the needs of the learners in my classroom as much as I can.

I see the start of the new school year as a way to create innovative, new activities that would qualify as zany and outside the box. I read books to satiate my desire for learning.  In this book, I read a highly informative yet humorous account that yields current brain research and how best to care for our brains. The author highlights 12 rules that assist us to live more effectively. We desire to become highly trained educators, to satisfy the requirements of courses and achieve the highest goals.  Basically, I want to only study half the time, with double the retention rate. Don’t you? That is an attainable goal using strategies from this book. Here are the “Brain Rules” that John Medina writes about:

  • Rule #1 Exercise boosts brain power. Getting out of your bed and walking to the coffee pot doesn’t count!
  • Rule #2 The human brain has evolved too.
  • Rule #3 Every brain is wired differently. Study the way you learn best.
  • Rule #4 We don’t pay attention to boring things. Is this boring yet?
  • Rule #5 Repeat to remember. What is that girl’s phone number?
  • Rule #6 Remember to repeat. How old am I?
  • Rule #7 Sleep well, think well. Ahhh, sleep is never underrated.
  • Rule #8 Stressed brains don’t learn the same way. Exercise the stress away, then study, remember and repeat.
  • Rule #9 Stimulate more of the senses.
  • Rule #10 Vision trumps all other senses. Make visuals, word webs, write on your friends’ T-shirts…
  • Rule #11 Male and female brains are different. (radically!)
  • Rule #12 We are powerful and natural explorers. Two year old tantrums actually are just a way for toddlers to explore the world.

In conclusion, take a look at your life, be honest about what lifestyle you are living, be self-reflective and give this year your best shot. Get sleep, exercise, eat balanced meals, study while walking, talking and generating words and you will find that studying will take half the time with twice the retention! And yes, I am a mother of 6 kids and out of our family of eight, five are in college. And Yes, we survive very well.


2011 Wisconsin Teacher of the Year, WI National Representative and Middle School Teacher of the Year, Maureen Look-Ainsworth, graduated from Marquette with a bachelor’s degree in human development and education. She earned her master’s degree in inquiry and brain research from Carroll University in Waukesha and is now seeking to complete a master’s degree in educational administration at MU.  Maureen taught  8th grade science and engineering at Horning Middle School for many year.  This year she will assume teaching 5th grade at Randall STEM Academy in Waukesha.

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