They came, they saw, they conquered, and for a little time, they even got to experience zero gravity.
Last week marked the triumphant return of a half dozen middle schoolers from John Ericsson Middle School 126 from a 10-day space camp program in Turkey.
“The most amazing thing to take away from this is that if anyone of us actually wants to be an astronaut, we already kind of know what to do,” said Dominick Allen, 14, one the participants. “To a lot of people it might seem like all fun and games, but it was a lot of hard-work and now we know we are prepared for the challenge.”
Students trained with the California-based non-profit, Global Friendship Through Space, which connects across the world through exchange programs, promoting the learning of science and technology through the study of space, for the past two years, before they took off for Turkey last month.
The students’ pre-program training included working with a set of toys that included hula-hoops, boomerangs, and jump ropes to study the effects of microgravity and to understand certain basic concepts in physics like the relationship between force and motion.
But it wasn’t all about space learning. The program, which is currently an exchange between five countries – The United States, Israel, Turkey, Poland, and Bulgaria, is also largely a cultural exchange, and a chance for the students to be exposed to different customs and ways of thinking.
For Allen, interacting with Turkish students, trying their cuisine, and shopping at their markets, were anong the highlights of the trip.
“Just having to covert American Dollars to Turkish Liras and learning about the exchange system was an amazing experience,” said Allen. “Just learning about the dress, the way you wear paper under your shoes, and getting to see their artifacts was an incredible experience.”
The students had truly a transformative experience. And the school’s Principal Marcos Bausch, who was instrumental in bringing the program to the school, attested to their learning process.
“They were glowing while talking about their experience,” said Bausch. “They said it was a life changing experience for them, and they hoped I could accompany the students next year. I feel like a proud dad to see this project come to fruition this way both for the students and as a personal goal of mine.”
M.S. 126 is now looking to incorporate the space program as a school tradition, sending more students each year, being as it is currently the only school in Brooklyn to offer it.