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Rushe Teacher Embarks On ‘Out Of This World’ Trip

Karen Stewart gets to spend a week at Space Camp.

When classes resume at Rushe Middle School in August, it might be one of the teachers that has the most exciting “what I did this summer” story to share.

Karen Stewart leaves today, June 14, for a week at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. She was awarded a full scholarship to the Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy program.

“I love space,” Stewart, a 17-year educator, said before leaving on her trip. Stewart teaches seventh and eighth grade science at Rushe and has spent 11 years of her career in Pasco County schools.

Stewart’s application to the program came about almost as a fluke, she said. She had been to a parent/child space camp at the Kennedy Space Center in the past with her oldest son, Robert, who is now 19. She also went on a zero-gravity flight in 2007. She even sent her younger son James, 16, to a space camp on his own.

Even with the two previous experiences, Stewart’s thirst to learn more about space and NASA’s programs wasn’t quenched.

Earlier this year, she decided to Google space camp opportunities and came across the Honeywell application for the summer program. So, she sat down, applied and wrote a 500-word essay. It wasn’t long before Stewart was notified she was ready for takeoff, so to say.

Stewart said she’s looking forward to learning more about the space program and can’t wait to translate what she learns this week into practical lessons for her students.

Already, thanks to that zero gravity flight, students at Rushe call her “that astronaut lady,” she said. This is especially so after she shows her current crop of students videos from her flight.

In the classroom, Stewart particularly enjoys teaching students about the impacts NASA and the space program have had on everyday lives, she said. Inventions, such as air bags, have impacted everyone and are credited to NASA programs, she added.

“It’s (the space program) not just about whether we pursue going back to the moon,” she said. “I don’t think people realize the impact they have on us.”

During her week at space camp, Stewart will participate in classes, learn in a laboratory setting and get to go through simulations of what actual astronauts experience. Students, in fact, will take part in two simulated space shuttle missions, according to Honeywell’s website.

“It’s pretty exciting,” she said.

Check back with Patch for more information about Stewart’s trip to space camp after she returns next week.

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