NES Teachers Receive National Educator Achievement Award

Congratulations to two NASA Explorer Schools educators, Lanena Berry from the Houston Independent School District, in Houston, Texas, and Joan Labay-Marquez from Curington Elementary School in Boerne, Texas, who are two of seven recipients of the 2013 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation Educator Achievement Award.

The AIAA Foundation presents the Educator Achievement Awards every two years to classroom teachers who have demonstrated exemplary efforts in exciting students in grades K–12 about the study of mathematics, science and related technical studies, and in preparing them to use and contribute to tomorrow’s technologies.

AIAA Executive Director and former NASA astronaut Sandra H. Magnus stated: “The seven educators selected to receive the 2013 AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award are a testament to how love of a subject coupled with inspiring teaching helps build the next generation of aerospace engineers and scientists. All it takes is a single spark, lit by an engaging teacher, to ignite the curiosity and interest of a student about the wonder and creativity resident in the world of science and engineering.”

Each winner will receive a trip to Washington, D.C., and will be honored at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala on May 8, 2013.

The AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award has been presented to over 52 educators since 1997 and has become a sought-after honor in the education community.

For more information on the AIAA Foundation Educator Achievement Award, please contact Lisa Bacon or call 703-264-7527.

Link to the NASA Explorer Schools home page.

Rovers, Rovers, Everywhere

Artist concept of Curiosity rover on surface of MarsMelody Shaw gave 700 fourth- and fifth-grade students an opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of NASA engineers. Shaw is a science lab teacher at Grenada Upper Elementary School in Grenada, Miss.

After learning about rovers and NASA’s newest robotic rover, Curiosity, Shaw’s students had a chance to build their own. Using resources from NASA’s On the Moon Educator Guide, students completed the challenge “Roving on the Moon,” where they designed, built and tested their very own lunar rovers. Shaw noted that this activity covered several areas of the state-required science and mathematics curriculum and that the testing and redesign steps required her students to think like engineers.

One exciting part of the experience was the community support and family involvement during the lesson. A Grenada business donated two large rolls of corrugated cardboard and straws, which made it possible for all 700 students to design and make their own rovers. After hearing about the activity, some parents requested to help out by cutting the cardboard into squares for each student. Many students said building the project was their favorite activity of the year, and it turned out to be a successful, exciting event for everyone involved.

Arizona Students Relate Home to Mars

ArizonaNASA Explorer Schools educator Kaci Heins and students from Arizona participated in a lesson based on the Mars Student Imaging Project. Her students studied geographic features on Earth and then used NASA photos to learn more about geographic features on Mars. Students applied skills such as measurement and how to document observations as well as reinforcing their understanding of latitude and longitude.

A highlight of the lesson was students’ comparing many geographic features they saw on Mars to those in Arizona where there is a volcanic field with cinder cone, lava tubes, canyons, lava flows, a meteor crater impact site and composite volcanoes. This comparison provided a real-world connection between Mars and their own community.  

To find out more about the lesson, go to the Remote Sensing Ices on Mars forum in NEON.

Barrett Elementary School Wins First Prize in Spaced Out Sports Challenge

News flash from Kate Waller Barrett Elementary School’s Project Discovery in Arlington, Va.

Number 1 graphicBarrett’s NASA Save the Earth team won first prize in the Spaced Out Sports Challenge Contest! NASA contacted staff members Allyson Greene, Wendy Cohen, Laurie Sullivan, and Terry Bratt with the good news. Out of 57 entries nationwide, Barrett Elementary took first place in the contest. This accomplishment was the result of a huge team effort by all of the fifth-grade teachers, along with Renee Shaw’s wonderful filming and editing talents. The students worked very hard to design a fun, yet challenging sports-based game for astronauts on the International Space Station to play on an upcoming mission.

For taking first place, the students’ game will be played by the International Space Station crew and recorded for a future NASA TV broadcast. Barrett students will communicate with the astronauts about their game plan. 

Information about the contest was posted on the NES Teachers Corner on Nov. 9, 2010.

Read a description of the contest and find a link to the school’s website with additional contest details and pictures in the article in NEON.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Science Discovery Night at K.W. Barrett Elementary School

Recently, NASA Explorer Schools educator Allyson Green and the staff at K.W. Barrett Elementary School hosted their annual Science Discovery Night. The event was an open house format in their gym featuring nine science activities including telescopes, reptiles, invention convention, a videoconference with NASA, viewing student projects, LEGO Mindstorm demos, Spaced Out Sports NASA Challenge demos, and the most popular — building with LEGOS. Green and her coworkers promoted the event through their internal television system, talking with parents, sending home student-made invitations, and holding mini science fair classes for parents who do not speak English as their first language. Over 60 percent of the entire student body attended.

The evening was organized with a passport format. Students and parents used a passport to visit each area, getting a stamp after participating in the activity. After all nine stamps were collected, students picked a NASA-related prize.

Science Discovery Night was a very successful event. Feedback from parents, students and staff was very positive. 

Story Postscript: Barrett found out on Wednesday, March 30, that their NASA Spaced Out Sports Challenge team came in first place. They had a diverse team of fifth-grade students working on a game called “Save The Earth.” The game was based on Newton’s Three Laws of Motion and was formulated with the Engineering Design Process. Congratulations to all involved!

Anderson and Tabor Develop and Share the Solar Sprint Activity. National Competition to Follow? Get in on the Fun!

Richard Tabor, fourth-grade teacher, and Stephen Anderson, principal at Amerman Elementary School in Michigan, found a method encouraging fourth-grade students to think about multiple variables and stimulates their curiosity when an activity doesn’t come out as predicted. They introduced a “Solar Sprint” activity in which students design, test and race a solar-powered car built with LEGO bricks. They then presented one more challenge to their students: The winner of the Solar Sprint is not the fastest but, rather, the model that is most efficient, based on a ratio of speed to weight. The use of ratios simulates the actual work of scientists and engineers.

Anderson decided to post the article and activity on NASA Educators Online Network, or NEON, a collaboration site for NES teachers. When Donna Rand, a science teacher in Connecticut, noticed the post, she decided to try Solar Sprint with her own students. After posting her interest, Anderson asked her to share her data for comparison, which sparked an idea. Could this become a national competition? To join in on the fun and see how your students measure up, use this activity in your own classroom! Go to:

Be sure to check back after using Solar Sprint with your students to share your data with Anderson and Rand in the forum. Whose students will produce the most efficient solar powered car?

Solar Sprint was featured in Science & Children, the National Science Teachers Association’s peer-reviewed journal for elementary science teachers. Both Anderson and Rand are NASA Explorer Schools participants. Rand uses NES resources to stimulate critical thinking through engaging activities. Anderson promotes NES at Amerman Elementary School to stimulate STEM education for his students. 

Demonstrate the connection between the Solar Sprint and real NASA engineering to your students by showing them the NASA Now program from Jan. 12, 2011, “The Mechanics of Solar Panels.” You’ll hear from Jeremiah McNatt, an electrical engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Ohio. McNatt will demonstrate how solar cells are made and used on the International Space Station.

Link to the NES Virtual Campus home page.

Climb on Board for a Fun-Filled Adventure

NASA Explorer Schools educator Elizabeth Petry from Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School used NES resources to encourage her students to read and write. Students began their adventure by participating in a videoconference activity in which they explored the solar system. Afterward, students conducted research and prepared a fact to share about their planet as part of a Reader’s Theater activity. Petry showed the NASA Now program, “Reasons for the Seasons,” and arranged for students to participate in a NASA Digital Learning Network videoconference, Our Solar Neighborhood.

Read more about this adventure in the article in NEON.

West Ward Elementary Students Participate in S'Cool Project

NASA Explorer Schools educator Elliott Alvarado and his students from West Ward Elementary School have been helping NASA scientists by participating in the Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line, or S’COOL, project. Students make atmospheric observations of cloud type and density, record simple weather information, and then post these to a central website. NASA scientists compare the student observations to images and information recorded by weather satellites. Alvarado reports the activity increases student interest and participation in science.

This activity complements NES modules Earth Climate Course and Satellite Meteorology.

For more information visit the S’Cool project website.

Elizabeth Petry Uses NES Resources to Prepare for Virtual Student Symposium

Mack Benn, Jr. Elementary SchoolNASA Explorer Schools educator Elizabeth Petry from Mack Benn, Jr. Elementary School found NES resources helpful when preparing for the Virtual Student Symposium. Her fifth-grade students conducted an investigation using a teaching module, Fingerprints of Life, and the NASA Now program, Microbes at NASA. The students were able to perform their experiment, record the data, and analyze it within a manageable time period. They took one class period to experiment and record data, plus a second class period to analyze data and derive conclusions.

To see pictures and the lesson, go to NEON, register, log in, join the NASA Explorer Schools group and find the NES resources forum.

NES Educators Participate in Annual STEM Conference

Forest Lake Elementary School logoNES Educators from Forest Lake Technology Magnet Elementary School and Forest Heights Elementary School participated in NASA Langley Research Center’s 3rd Annual STEM Conference in Charlotte, N.C. During the three-day conference. The educators attended breakout sessions where they learned about engineering design challenges, problem-based learning activities, distance-learning modules, inquiry-based lessons and other hands-on projects.

During the closing ceremony, astronaut Lee Morin, who has accumulated 259 hours in space, shared his experience as a flight surgeon, spacewalker and advocate of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.