On Saturday 9 September, 14 Eltham High School students and 2 teachers (Ross Pringle and Naomi Edrees) left for 16 days on a trip to the USA. We went on this trip with 12 students and 2 teachers from Diamond Valley College. This trip involved 6 days at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, 4 days in Orlando, Florida and then 3 days in San Francisco, California.
Read our students’ account of the trip by Riley Webb (Year 11, Everard House) and London Riddell (Year 10, Everard House):
Huntsville – Alabama
The first stop on our trip was at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, after three flights and 27 hours in transit! At Space Camp, our days were filled with fun activities and history lessons where we learnt about some of NASA’s missions. Some of the activities we complete included, activities that simulated real-life NASA missions, on and off the ground, and creating and launching our own rockets. We flew jet aircraft simulators and went scuba diving so that we could experience a neutral buoyancy environment, the same environment that real astronauts train in!
We had multiple group activities, like constructing a heat shield, building a rover, and building and launching our rockets. We received space camp books from our trainers, which held all the information we learned about and the activities we did. The books even had questions in them, which we could use to expand our knowledge of the information we were learning about. Over the course of the six days, we got to complete three missions, two of which lasted for an hour and the last mission went for three. For each mission, everybody was assigned a role, some of these roles also had an EVA (Extravehicular Activity) included, this meant we were suspended in the air to do tasks on a simulated spacewalk.
After the six days of fun activities and bonding with friends, we finally graduated, before we went on some outings around Huntsville! The first place we went to was Bob Jones High School. We ate lunch in the cafeteria and met heaps of kids our own age. We were able to talk with and get to know some of the kids who attend Bob Jones High School. We then went to Walmart and got snacks for the football game that we were attending that night. At the High School football game, we were able to see some of the friends we made during the day at the school, and were even able to make some more. We saw cheerleaders and a marching band. We then spent our last night in Alabama back at Space Camp, where we would have to wake up early for our morning flight to Atlanta, and then Orlando.
Orlando – Florida
Our first day in Orlando started at around 4pm and was spent relaxing, getting to know the area and spending time with our friends. On our second day in Orlando, we spent the first half the day at Volcano Bay and had an exciting time on all the water slides. The other half of the day, we spent at Islands of Adventure. We explored all the areas of the theme park and went on heaps of rides. The different sections of Islands of Adventure were themed and they were all filled with extraordinary detail from the media that they were based off. Here we saw Hogsmeade from Harry Potter, Marvel Superhero Island, Jurassic Park and more.
On the third day, we visited Kennedy Space Centre and learned more about space and the people who went there. We even met John M. Fabian who is an astronaut and has been to space twice! He told us all about his life before and after NASA. On our third day in Orlando, we spent the entire day at the main Universal Park. The themed areas here included Springfield from the Simpsons, Diagon Alley from Harry Potter, Production Central, multiple city-themed areas and more. We were able to move between this park and Islands of Adventure on this day as we wished. This meant that we could catch the Hogwarts Express to and from the parks. This was also our last night in Orlando. The next day, we flew across the country to San Francisco.
San Francisco – California
San Francisco was our final destination and our shortest stay in one place. We spent four days and three nights in San Francisco. On our first day there, we had a free afternoon after our flight from Orlando. After getting to our rooms, we were able to settle in and make the most of our free afternoon and grab a bite to eat. On the second day, we visited the Muir Woods. The Muir woods were a quiet and peaceful way to spend time with our friends and see the all the flora and fauna it had to offer. The animals that we spotted the most were deer and baby salmon. While most places we visited had gift shops, the gift shop at the Muir Woods was filled with items made from recycled and sustainable materials, such as posters and stuffed animals.
After the Muir Woods, we went on a City Tour. We drove past many amazing places, such as Union Square, Castro, the Palace of Fine Arts and of course the Golden Gate Bridge. At many of these places we were able to get out of the bus and get a proper look around to take some photos. We even drove past the same house that the movie Mrs. Doubtfire was filmed in. On our third day, we went to the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium was filled with many activities that correlated with the sections we were in. After the Exploratorium, we went to Alcatraz.
We took a ferry there and spent around 2 hours touring Alcatraz. We went on the audio tour, which taught us about the most famous people who were prisoners on the island and the lives of the guards and their families who also lived on the island. Our last day in San Francisco, was also our last day in the US and on the trip, as later that night, we had a long-haul flight back home. On our last day, we had a free day. We were given the opportunity to find things that we wanted to do and places we wanted to visit. People went shopping in Union Square, some played Mini-golf, and went to an arcade, museums, and a ferry. Everyone was able to explore San Francisco with their friends. At the end of our fun day in San Francisco, we got on a 15-hour flight to come back home to our friends and family.
Overall, our favourite parts about the whole trip were Space Camp, Universal, the Muir Woods and our free day in San Francisco. This trip allowed us to experience living as adults and all the responsibility and independence that it comes with. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, that every one of us loved.
None of this would have been possible without the teachers who went on this trip and planned the whole thing for us, Naomi and Ross. And a special thanks to Raelene, who booked all our accommodation, passes and flights.