Follansbee School Teacher Has Out Of This World Experience at Space Camp

This summer Jami Packer, a sixth-grade math teacher at Follansbee Middle School, joined about 200 fellow educators from around the globe for an experience that was out of this world.

Packer was selected to attend the Honeywell Educators Space Academy, a program held at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., that offers educators of various subjects a taste of the training and missions experienced by U.S. astronauts while encouraging them to incorporate space-related activities into their teaching lessons.

“I’m a curious person who likes to seek out new things,” Packer said, noting she eagerly applied after hearing about the program from fellow Brooke County teacher Suzanne Davidson.

The experience was as exciting as advertised, Packer said.

During the camp she was strapped into a chair designed to simulate the weightlessness felt by astronauts on the moon, and a multi-axis trainer — a three-ringed device that spins its rider in various directions to create the sense of disorientation felt while within a space capsule tumbling from space toward Earth.

Packer said while she didn’t feel weightless while in the chair, she found it very difficult to move in it.

“They tell you don’t bother trying to run, because you just can’t,” she said.

Packer also “experienced” a mission to Mars, with the red planet simulated by an indoor set that included a rock wall.

“That was fun. … There was a lot of talk about the current generation in middle school being the Mars generation, the ones who will go there,” Packer said.

She said by sharing what she experienced and learned at the space camp, she hopes “to light that fire of inspiration” in potential future astronauts, scientists and technicians.

Packer said as a youth she considered careers in microbiology, archaeology and law as well as teaching. She said though she enjoyed serving as a capsule communicator for a simulated space shuttle mission, she’s not sure traveling in space is for her.

“I can’t imagine having the courage of an astronaut — to go up in a rocket,” Packer said. “Hopefully, one of my students will do that and I can live vicariously through them.”

Among those in Packer’s crew were teachers from Turkey, Slovakia, Japan, the Philippines and South Africa. She has kept in touch with some through Facebook.