Some Thoughts from the Executive Director, Bill Hayden

Bill Hayden at STARBASE

The 2017/18 school year and the 2018 Summer Camps brought new EXCITEMENT and interesting PROGRESS to the STARBASE program!  We are always making small changes to improve the curricula.  This year, we made several big ones.

One significant change was introducing our 6th grade AEROBASE classes to coding, an exciting new technology field.  In “Mission on Mars”, teams of students programmed their drones to deliver a package to astronauts in a simulated Mars station.  They loved it!  We still build and launch rockets, but the drone mission is generating real interest because of its coding application in today’s technological world.

We also “exported” the STARBASE experience.  Students and parents have often asked for additional science and math experiences, but our schoolhouse is “maxed out” during the school year. So, our instructors, in tandem with the classroom teachers, developed several SOL-aligned projects that were taken to the home schools.  The station work was focused on the Moon and Electricity, subjects the children could associate with easily.  The concept worked well, and we will expand the concept of exporting more science projects.  The fourth graders still come to our schoolhouse every year for their big STARBASE experience, but now they get even more math and science in their regular classrooms.

Summer camps remained exciting and productive this year.  We provide field trips in the summer because the students enjoy seeing “real world” applications for the subjects they study in school and in STARBASE.  I took three classes of rising seventh graders aboard the USS Abraham LINCOLN, a nuclear aircraft carrier in port in Norfolk.  The students were impressed with the size of the ship, the number of sailors onboard and all the functions that are necessary for a ship to operate for months at sea (especially, the “mess decks” where they ate as much as they wanted of whatever they wanted alongside the sailors!).

Perhaps our most interesting new offerings during the summer were two, three-week camps called “FOHTA at STARBASE”.  From One Hand To Another is a free program founded by Pharrell Williams (the singer/songwriter from Virginia Beach).  There are 20 (now 21) FOHTA camps across the country.  They emphasize STEAMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and Motivation).  It was a perfect fit for us, and the students (40 of them) enjoyed an exciting “maker” experience.  Campers teamed up to make functional signs advertising the various businesses.  The signs incorporated electrical circuits (using safe, magnetized components) that energized lights or motors to catch the eye of potential customers.  Students presented their signs to the public at two Gallery Walks in City Hall.

Every year, we discover new ways to inspire our students as we seek to inspire their interest in STEM subjects and STEM careers. That generates EXCITEMENT…and this year, I noticed that Portsmouth was the only School Division in Hampton Roads to achieve growth in science…from an overall 75 to currently 77%!

Please check out our new STARBASE brochure.