Over the school holidays, eighteen students with three staff completed our second very highly successful, educational tour to NASA , Orlando and Washington in the USA.
The following is a brief account of what the tour party did in the 13 days. A special thanks to Dr Michael Van der Kwast who coordinated the tour, Margarita Tranquille and Marie Jovanoski for all their work in getting this up and running. From all accounts the students had a great time and learnt a great deal:
Over the April school holidays, a collection of keen Prendiville students commenced the second ever USA Science Tour. Leaving at midnight after a full Prendiville Day of activities, 21 hours of travelling eventually brought us to sunny Los Angeles.
A 10-hour layover was a great excuse to jump on a bus and tour the local scenes including Santa Monica and Venice Beach. After quickly dipping our toes into the other side of the Pacific Ocean, we departed via a five-hour flight to Orlando. It was here that the science started, with a STEM focused session at ifly on forces and acceleration followed by an exciting practical component where students simulated the freefall experienced by skydivers.
Next, a tour of the fragile ecosystem that is the everglades yielded the rare site of a family of otters and bald eagles, as well as the traditional alligators which infest that swampland.
The next two days focused on space. Kennedy Space Centre is a unique museum which holds the Space Shuttle Atlantis as well as a rocket garden holding real rockets used in space. It included a tour of the launch pads as well as the Saturn V rocket used to send humans to the moon. This also included a half-day astronaut training where simulations proved that it was the students, not the teachers, who would be best prepared for space travel. A quick trip to Cocoa Beach for a cool down proved the best way to de-stress after this intense training session.
The remaining days were spent relaxing at some of the Orlando must-sees - Disney and Universal Studios. We managed to fit some science in with the Disney YES programme where we conducted experiments to show how the imagineers (Disney Engineers) alter ride conditions to maximise thrills and safety. Aside from this, students were free to roam the amazing rides and sights which included Space Mountain, Disney Castle, Harry Potter World, Jurassic Park, Hulk Roller Coaster and many more.
With Orlando finished, we had a quick flight over to Washington DC. With our hotel in the heart of the city, we spent the remaining days of our trip walking to some of USA’s best-known landmarks. For many the highlight of the trip was standing in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, overlooking the Vietnam and Korean War monuments to the setting sun behind us. For others it was seeing the Wright Brothers’ plane, or the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane or the walk through the Holocaust Museum or meeting Henry the Elephant in the Natural History museum or touching a piece of the Berlin wall. Needless to say there were a lot of memorable moments in Washington.
Throughout the trip it was a pleasure to be the focus of locals who went out of their way to ask where we were travelling from and to tell us how fantastic our students were. It was a privilege for all to attend what is a very large and densely filled trip which will surely influence the outlook on science for all now that we have seen the incredible and real-life applications of what we learn in school. All students enjoyed the trip so much that they gave it the highest possible rating - worth the combined 50 hours travel time!