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My Educational Autobiography

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Table of Contents

  1. Plastic Inner Tubes and Overly Concerned Grandparents: Learning to Swim
  2. Losing a Battle with a Picnic Table: My First Broken Bone
  3. Becoming a Big Sister (Twice)
  4. Double the Morning Announcements: My Experiences in a Third Grade Bilingual Homeroom
  5. Recorder Karate: The Beginnings of My Musical Endeavors
  6. Becoming an Astronaut for a Day: Sixth Grade Science Class
  7. Marlborough and Akiruno: Hosting a Japanese Foreign Exchange Student
  8. C.I.T.Y. Kids and D.E.L.V.E.: More Than Just Acronyms
  9. Preschoolers and Lit Chalices: Teaching Sunday School
  10. Dealing with Cats, Dogs, and Clients: Working as a Veterinary Technician
  11. On-roads and Gruesome Videos: The Perils of Driver’s Ed
  12. The Day I Anticipated Until It Actually Arrived: Graduation


Chapter 6: Becoming an Astronaut for a Day: Sixth Grade Science Class


I file in with the rest of my classmates, an uncharacteristically quiet hush falling over us as we survey the rows of computers before us.   Many weeks had been spent in Mr. McCook’s science class preparing and training for this moment, our voyage to Mars.  We quickly find our assigned seats.  Overhead, the beginning of a countdown is heard.  “Ten…nine…eight…”

I sit patiently awaiting instruction from the Communications and Data Team, who have the job of relaying the flood of messages received by the ground crew.  I do not have to wait long.  Soon my computer pings letting me know that the probe has now gathered enough information for me to pick a landing site.  Carefully I survey “Mars” as it appears on my computer screen.  That patch is too rocky, that patch too remote.  Wait, that spot right there!  Perfect!  Holding my breath, I hesitantly select the area.  My classmates direct their attention to the large monitor on the wall, watching with bated breath as the rover nears the surface of Mars.  A few moments later, it lands safely and I can breathe again.  So far the mission has been a success.

Next, we board the elevator that will take us from the command center to the Spacecraft.  Once aboard the Spacecraft, we again break into our assigned roles.  I, along with two other classmates, have the task of testing Martian soil samples obtained by the probe and comparing it to that of Earth.  We are soon startled from our task by a voice overhead warning us that our water supply has been contaminated.  With time running out, we make the decision to retest the water supply and find that there was an error in testing.  The mission is once again moving as planned. 

This day spent in the Christa McAuliffe Center at Framingham State University is one of the highlights of my middle school educational experience.  For the first time I was able to connect what I had learned in the classroom to something more concrete, sparking my interest in science by showing me its real world applications.  The importance of teamwork was also highlighted through the interconnected nature of our tasks.

This experience is not one open to all sixth grade students in the United States, emphasizing the idea of privilege and the “Myth of Merit” discussed in “Teaching the World.”  What had my classmates and I done to “earn” this opportunity that other students had failed to do?  Nothing.  We were offered the opportunity because of our middle school’s proximity to Framingham State College and were able to take advantage of it because our school had the funds to pay for it.  While it is encouraging to think that our actions and hard work have earned us the right to experiences such as these, the reality is that some students have opportunities open to them that are closed to other students.  This has nothing to do with merit and everything to do with privilege.

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