Mrs. Whittier changing out the students heat shields for the experiment

Walk into Kate Whittier’s classroom at A.C. Reynolds Middle School and you’ll discover a room full of young sixth grade scientists who are eager to discover new knowledge. The same is true for Mrs. Whittier, as she is always looking for new teaching opportunities. 

In the Summer of 2022, Mrs. Whittier attended Space Academy for Educators in Huntsville, Alabama. During this unique professional development, she learned new and exciting activities to bring back to her classroom. She said the experience was life changing and a dream come true. Her students have had some fun hands-on experiments this school year thanks to Mrs. Whittier’s camp training. 

“I am able to teach my students realistic STEM challenges that are highly engaging,” she said. “Students are having to do some in depth thinking as they’ve learned about heat transfer by creating their own heat shield design.”

Students worked in groups using what materials were provided to them in order to create a heat shield that would protect an astronaut, or in this case an egg, from the sun’s rays. Mrs. Whittier (safely) used a small blowtorch to simulate the heat from the sun. 

“The students took what they knew about insulators and conductors in the way heat is transferred to build their heat shield,” Mrs. Whittier explained. “It was really cool to see all the designs, and to watch which ones worked and didn’t. The students had to analyze their shields in real time as the heat was being applied, which they were amazed to see how well theirs held up.”

Mrs. Whittier has big plans for the rest of the year. The next big project they plan is to build a Mars Rover replica that can safely carry an egg a short distance. 

Mrs. Whittier holding a thermometer to test the heat of the egg as the blowtorch works on the heat shield.