SCHOOLCHILDREN are boldly going where many of their peers have been before by enrolling in an American space camp.

Dozens of pupils from St Clere’s School in Butts Lane, Stanford-le-Hope have been given the chance to become astronauts for the summer thanks to their former maths teacher.

Ken Lewis, 59, from Langdon Hills started taking gifted and talented pupils to a space camp 12 years ago after an American astronaut visited and gave a presentation.

Since then 250 pupils have taken part and blasted off to the Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the once in a lifetime experience – more than any other school in the UK.

Mr Lewis, ended up setting up his own company with wife Jane, 57, called Gifted Tours because other schools showed so much interest and it’s now his full time job.

Mr Lewis, who is the UK ambassador for the space centre, said: “I love taking the kids to space camp and it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

“It started as a gifted and talented trip and then got extended to lots of pupils across the school. It’s become so popular my wife and I started the business because schools from across the country were showing interest. I have become a bit of a space nerd, but the trip is amazing, something the children remember forever and builds up their team skills.”

Nichola Denniss, head of maths at St Clere’s, who is taking the pupils this year, said: “Our annual visit to space camp is an educational experience that is also great fun. It raises our students aspirations and makes them appreciate and value the work they carry out in school.”

Children on the trip, which costs £1,600, get to take part in a space mission, sit in a gravity chair and have a go in a flight simulator.

Natalie Crabb, 21, from Linford, a former pupil of St Clere’s School, saw her trip pay off as she is going to work for a year as an environmental educator near the camp.

She said: “Mr Lewis really made science fun for the pupils on the trip and it inspired me to pursue my dream career.”

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