The cast on his left arm made it difficult for 6-year-old Jeffery VanBerkel to glue together the landing gear, but he kept at it.
Aaron Bokelmann looked on approvingly.
“He’s doing good for one arm,” said the 39-year-old earth space science teacher as he moved around Room 563 at Bayshore High School Monday morning.
Twenty-two students like Jeffery were eagerly building small balsa wood models of space shuttles.
It was an important exercise on the first day of Bokelmann’s Bayshore Space Camp Summer 2011.
Dreams were being kept alive.
His as well as theirs.
The scheduled July 8 launch of space shuttle Atlantis will be the last of the 30-year-old NASA program.
It is an untimely development for Bokelmann who is one of 30 teachers selected worldwide to attend the Honeywell Educators @ Advanced Space Academy beginning Friday at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Having previously attended Honeywell Educators @ Space Camp in 2009, the father of three had hoped it might lead him to NASA’s Teachers In Space program.
“I have mixed emotions,” Bokelmann said. “I grew up seeing the space shuttle and, going through the program, I thought it’d be cool to be an astronaut but there’s nothing left. They don’t have a space program right now, so I don’t know if they’re still going to do that. It’s sad to see the end of an era.”
That hasn’t dampened Bokelmann’s primary passion.
The Honeywell experience -- supplemental teaching techniques through real-life astronaut training -- augments his ability as an educator.
“I just did this because kids love space, and it’s an opportunity for them to learn more about it,” Bokelmann said. “The more kids I get involved, the better it will be. Hopefully, there will be something designed in the future they can look forward to.”
His first Bayshore Space Camp Summer drew 15 students last summer.
This year, there’s 23 plus a waiting list.
“It’s taken off more than I anticipated,” he said.
So have the imagination of his space campers, including 7-year-olds Jamiah Johnson and Tanner Stephens, both Rowlett Elementary students.
“I want to be an astronaut,” she said.
“I want to go to Jupiter. I want to go to Saturn,” he said.
“I’ve learned a lot about space already,” said 10-year-old Greg Boyes, a Samoset Elementary student.
Bokelmann scanned the classroom.
The shuttles were built and ready to be painted.
“It’s great they can bring something home that physically reminds them of the space program,” he said. “The shuttle models I built as a boy are still at home at my parents’ house (in Jupiter).
“Twenty-three new shuttles. Maybe the kids will remember them and what they represented when they get older.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055.