This week, comments from guest blogger Susan Mayo with observations about the value of the International Space Station in inspiring students.
As a former high school chemistry and physics teacher, I am pleasantly surprised by the focus on education linked to research in space. For example, I was just at the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology (ASGSB) annual meeting in Washington, D.C. This gathering included a hands-on workshop and panel geared towards education and I was inspired by the positive, exciting, next-generation focus of this group of professionals. The ASGSB meeting is the first conference I have been to in a long time where they planned to build partnerships with classroom teachers, rather than trying to “fix” them as educators. This, in turn, better enables those teachers to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with their students.
Inspiring the next generation of innovators is an essential component of K-12 education. Children can truly aspire to be anything they want to be if, and only if, they are willing to work for it. Educators have a responsibility to provide students with the tools to guide them through the difficult process of determining where their skills and interests will lead them in the future. Students do not understand the importance of having a strong background in math and science as they progress through their education. With the nationwide focus on testing students to determine knowledge, rather than developing critical thinking skills, we are forcing an entire generation of students to concentrate on becoming test takers and not innovators.
This is where partnerships between industry and educators can truly initiate a difference via collaboration. Well over 31 million students worldwide participated in hands-on activities related to space station research from 2000 to 2006. Now, in 2010, as the International Space Station moves to assembly complete and full utilization, the opportunities for reaching the next generation grow radically.
The new technological developments and scientific research taking place on station are not only cutting edge, but also applicable to our everyday lives. Many of the future careers our students will seize do not even exist today. Educators and students have a unique opportunity with the space station to participate in science while it is happening, rather than teaching about it later on as a history lesson. While speaking at the conference, former astronaut and explorer Dr. Scott Parazynski, Challenger Center for Space Science Education, stated, “NASA is in the business of taking the impossible and making it look easy.” I believe this is what educators do every day in the classroom.
The space station gives teachers an amazing forum for their students. If you are an educator or student who wants to be part of some of our ongoing outreach programs, like EarthKAM, Kids in Micro-g, or the Zero Robotics Challenge, just click on the imbedded links here.
Susan Mayo is a scientist and educator specialist for the International Space Station Office of the Program Scientist. Her background includes experience as a high school chemistry and physics teacher in Idaho and a scientist with a background in biochemistry, chemistry, waste management and environmental science. In today’s blog she shares her thoughts and experiences from the 2010 American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology conference with the readers of A Lab Aloft.