March 14, 2009


Homer native selected for space education program

Middle school teacher will attend Advanced Honeywell Educators at Space Academy Program

Staff Reporter
Rick Chapman majored in elementary education at SUNY Cortland, but his concentration was in geology and he had loved science since his student days at Homer High School.
The sixth-grade science teacher at West Genesee Middle School in Camillus will receive a two-week dose of science education in June, as he attends the Advanced Honeywell Educators at Space Academy Program.
Chapman is one of 24 American teachers chosen for the program, which attracts educators from all over the world.
He will be joined by Craig Dowler, a science teacher at West Genesee High School.
Chapman will spend the first week in Florida, at Cape Canaveral, and the second week at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
“We’ll be doing missions underwater in Florida, to simulate being weightless in space,” Chapman said. “We’ll be wearing buoyancy vests while we perform tasks in a tank.”
The teachers will also experience simulated shuttle missions, as the program shows them how to teach aspects of space exploration and space sciences.
Honeywell has sponsored the program for middle school science teachers since 2004 through its Hometown Solutions community outreach division, to promote math and science education, according to its Web site. The program includes tuition, food, accommodations and travel expenses.
About 1,000 teachers apply for the program each year, of whom about 150 are chosen based on their explanation of how they plan to use the academy’s curriculum in their teaching.
For the advanced program, Chapman had to explain how he has used what he learned in 2007 in his classes.
Chapman will leave for the academy on June 17, before the school year ends.
The West Genesee district and the town of Camillus honored him Tuesday, the day he learned of his selection. The town proclaimed that day as Rick Chapman Day.
“I always liked science, going back to earth science with Denny Wright and classes with Rick Cecconi at Homer,” said Chapman. “I was hired as a fifth-grade teacher originally, at East Hill Elementary, but when this job opened up I jumped at it.”
Chapman, 37, graduated from Homer in 1990 and from SUNY Cortland in 1995. He received a master’s degree in reading from SUNY Cortland in 1998.
He worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Liverpool district, then as a teacher at Ed Smith Elementary School in Syracuse. He lost his job when the Syracuse City School district laid off teachers in 1998 but was hired by the West Genesee district. He has been at West Genesee Middle School, one of two middle schools in the district, for nine years.
“The sixth-graders study map reading, rocks and minerals, geomorphology (how landforms are shaped by water and other forces), weather and climate, then astronomy,” he said. “We build the foundation for ninth-grade earth science.”
Chapman took part in the Honeywell program two years ago as well, for one week at Huntsville.
“We spent the first days on team-building,” he said, adding that people from different nations had to learn to communicate and understand each other’s education systems.
“It was tremendous networking — I still talk to some of those teachers,” he said. “We swap ideas about activities. We had engineering challenges, to compete with each other. We talked about how to inspire students. The goal was to make teachers excited about space science and teaching about it.”
Chapman and his wife, Michelle, live in Liverpool with their two daughters. He is the son of Debbie and Boyd Chapman of Homer.


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