( L-R)Michael Parkhill, Katie Maybaum, Margaret Baguio,Sharon Smith, Angaleta Crenshaw,
Lanette Oliver Miller, Sara Hemenway
Each summer NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium hosts a weeklong professional development summer institute entitled LiftOff. This nationally competitive aerospace workshop series emphasizes science, mathematics, and technology learning experiences by incorporating a space theme supported by NASA missions. Teacher participants selected for the program meet at NASA Johnson Space Center, are provided with information, materials, and experiences through hands-on activities and field trips that promote space science and enrichment activities for themselves, their districts, and science learning communities. Each LiftOff teacher commits to not only using the materials during classroom instruction but agreed to train an additional 50 teachers during the upcoming year. During LiftOff 2007, NASA-JSC engineer, Jerry Woodfill spoke to these educators and shared Christa McAuliffe’s lessons that were to have flown on STS-51L . These experiments on Hydroponics, Chromatography, Newton’s Laws, Magnetism, Effervescence, and Simple Machines directly relate to STEM education standards addressed in classrooms today.
Teachers who attended the LiftOff Summer Institute, called LiftOff Alumni, were invited to apply to participate in an experiment on NASA’s Reduced Gravity Aircraft. Educator participants selected for the flight were motivated by Barbara Morgan’s launch in 2007 of space shuttle Endeavour mission STS-118. We all felt a part of this historic flight of the first educator in space and backup to Christa McAuliffe Challenger Mission of 1986. We realized that most of today’s students have only read about the Challenger Mission and do not understand the purpose of the science experiments that were to be conducted in space. When we received copies of Challenger’s Lost Lessons from Jerry Woodfill and saw how pertinent the topics are to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teaching in today’s classroom, we thought it would be of benefit to students and to teachers to reconstruct and adapt these lessons and activities using today’s technological advancements.
The NASA Reduced Gravity Program operated by NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, provides the unique "weightless" or "zero-g" environment of space flight for test and training purposes on a cost-reimbursable funding basis. With the coming of age of the Space Transportation System and the current plans for the Space Station, this capability is ideal for the development and verification of space hardware, experiments, crew training and it is also ideal for doing basic research.
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