All Things Station

The International Space Station is massive. And NASA has a massive amount of Web pages about the station. How can you cut through the technical data and focus on the educational aspects of the station so students can benefit from the orbiting science laboratory?

The answer is the Teach Station website. The new site is the place to go for lessons, activities, opportunities, news and other educational resources related to the space station.

The Teach Station logo with a silhouette of the International Space Station


The site is one of many websites offered by the Teaching From Space Office. Teaching From Space offers experiences and resources not found anywhere else. Through the Teach Station site you can learn about Inflight Educational Downlinks. These downlinks put you in touch with astronauts aboard the International Space Station to answer questions related to your classroom studies.

Teach Station is the site to find resources for students as they’re building podcasts using the Space Station module. Teach Station has the who, what, when and where of International Space Station news.

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Seeing the Station

Remember in the movie “October Sky” when the family went outside and watched as the Russian Sputnik satellite flew overhead? It looked like a point of light moving across the sky. That had to be a cool and somewhat frightening experience. When the International Space Station flies over, it looks similar to what was shown in the movie. If the conditions are good, you and your students might be able to see the station flying across the night sky. Seeing the station makes it relevant and could make students more enthusiastic when they create a podcast episode using the Space Station DIY Podcast module.

NASA has a website that tells where and when the station will be flying over, the station’s location in the sky at that time, and the amount of time it will be visible. You and your students can figure out when it will be passing over your community.

Another NASA page shows the current location of the station on a world map. This page is fun because you can see when the station is in daylight or darkness.

Screenshot of the space station orbital tracking map


The Brain Bites video “How Can I See the Space Station?” shows how that tiny point of light will look as it flies overhead.

One evening as I was leaving work, the space station flew overhead. My co-worker pointed it out. I jumped out of my car and ran into our office through the back door. There were only a few people left in the building so I shouted, “The station is flying over,” and dashed out the front door because the station was flying over the building. My colleagues caught up with me outside. Believe it or not, some of us at NASA are geeks and still love to watch the station fly over.

When I was teaching, I would give my students the “assignment” of watching for the station. Eighth-graders can be as excited about seeing the station as some of us at NASA are.

My most exciting station sighting was in Florida during the launch of STS-131. The shuttle was on the launch pad for a 6:30 a.m. liftoff. It was still dark. At about 6:15 a.m., the station flew over in front of the moon. The experience couldn’t have been better if someone had planned it.

Look up and see the station as soon as you can. And, oh yes, there is an app for that. Search for apps for your smartphone or tablet computer, and you may find several versions of an app that will alert you when the station is flying over.

•    Station Sighting Opportunities
•    Station Tracking Map

DIY Podcast: Space Station

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If I Could Talk to the Astronauts

NASA discovers new worlds, builds better aircraft, sends probes to the end of the solar system, studies Earth, and launches humans into space. On top of all that, NASA has free opportunities for teacher and student involvement.

Another one of those opportunities is coming soon. NASA is accepting proposals from educational institutions that would like to host a videoconference with astronauts who are on board the International Space Station. The event is called an In-flight Education Downlink. During the downlink, students and astronauts have a 20-minute question-and-answer session as the astronauts orbit Earth. I like to call it the ultimate “ask-the-expert” experience.

The proposals, due June 1, 2012, will allow the selected institutions (schools, districts, museums, etc.) to downlink with the space station Expedition 33 and 34 crews. Astronauts Sunita Williams, Kevin Ford and Thomas Marshburn will answer students’ questions. Williams is returning to the station. She lived and worked on the station 195 days during her tour as flight engineer for Expeditions 14 and 15 from December 2006 to June 2007. She is featured in the DIY Podcast: Fitness module.

Watch astronauts Dan and Don talk to elementary school students
during a recent downlink.

Even before you submit a proposal, you and your students can participate in an interactive webcast with Williams. On May 2, 2012, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. EDT, Williams will discuss her past experiences with NASA and the science she’ll be performing during her next mission. The webcast is made available by NASA’s Digital Learning Network.

What kind of questions would your students ask if they could talk to the astronauts? Would they be motivated to learn more about science, technology, engineering or math? 

NASA’s Teaching From Space Office makes the In-flight Education Downlinks available. TFS will even help you plan your proposal with informal online sessions to answer your questions. As part of the application, you will need to explain your plan for post-downlink activities. How will you use the downlink experience to continue to motivate your students and the community? Consider including clips from the downlink in your DIY Podcast creations.

Don’t miss these chances to talk to NASA astronauts.

For more information, contact the Teaching From Space Office by email at or by phone at 281-244-7608.

Here are a few articles to help and inspire you. Good luck.

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    Get Involved: Spaced Out Sports

    Space + sports = fun. Yes, I am a former math teacher, and I remember what adds up to engaged learning — start with two subjects that most students enjoy.

    Hypothesis: Combining the wonder of space and NASA with the thrill of sports will motivate students for greater learning success.

    And now the science teacher in me comes out.

    Whether you take the mathematical approach or use the scientific method, NASA’s Spaced Out Sports design challenge can get the ball rolling. Okay, I’ll stop.

    Students design a game for astronauts to play on the space station.

    Students apply Newton’s Laws of Motion to design or redesign a game that astronauts on the International Space Station can play.

    The competition is open to students in grades 5-8. Student teams will submit game demonstrations via a playbook and a video. Submissions will be accepted from schools, home school groups, and after-school or enrichment programs.

    Watch the video of last year’s winners.

    Use the DIY Podcast videos to jump-start students’ ideas and to find background information about Newton’s laws and microgravity.

    •    DIY Podcast: Micro-g
    •    DIY Podcast: Newton’s Laws
    •    DIY Podcast: Sports Demo

    DIY Podcast videos
    •    Tightrope walking in microgravity
    •    Microgravity baseball
    •    Football on the station

    The deadline for Spaced Out Sports submissions is March 16, 2012.
    For details, visit the Spaced Out Sports website.

    Teachers, let the games begin!

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    New DIY Podcast Topic Module: Space Station

    I could go on and on praising the International Space Station. You will probably recognize that when you see our newest DIY Podcast module — Space Station.

    Selecting photos for the image page was like deciding which of your family’s pictures to use in the photo album — you know they’re all cute. Well, maybe it’s not that bad, but I had some tough decisions to make when it came to excluding pictures and videos. They’re all good.

    I probably said this about the last module, but I’m excited about this one. The videos are informative and fun. The possibilities are nearly endless when it comes to ways for students to use the video, audio and images to create a podcast episode. The station is real-world science; it’s off the planet; and things float there. Exciting!

    The International Space Station orbiting Earth

    This module has video and audio clip interviews from two experts. Camille Alleyne is the assistant program scientist for the International Space Station. Mike Fincke currently holds the NASA record for most time in orbit.

    One of the many perks of my job is interviewing experts. I wanted to ask Ms. Alleyne questions all day. The more I listened the more impressed I was about the science taking place on the station. We have a lot of good things going on up there that are benefitting the world. I think I love the space station.

    Interviewing Colonel Fincke was just plain fun. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the clips. Fincke gives us the perspective only someone who has lived on the station could.

    We also have footage of astronaut Garrett Reisman giving a tour of the space station in 2008. This was before the station was finished, but you’ll get a glimpse of life aboard the station.

    We also have extra footage of the station. And because there is so much to learn about the station, we have added an extra page of links that students can use for more research.

    Beware of station overload!

    DIY Podcast: Space Station

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    The Laws That Govern NASA

    From launching rockets and flying airplanes to understanding masses and orbits or planets, NASA depends on Newton’s Laws of Motion. We have great resources for those who teach physical science. Three DIY Podcast modules include videos and audio with astronauts and NASA experts explaining the laws of motion.

    Students can combine clips from Newton’s Laws,Sports Demo, and Rocket Science with their own demonstrations to create a podcast episode explaining the laws of motion.

    Below I’ve listed some NASA resources that you can use with your class.

    Newton's first law of motion Lunar Nautics: Newton’s Laws of Motion Activities

    Navigating by Good Gyrations

    Why Do the Planets Go Around the Sun?
    A Short Introduction to Black Holes

    The Spinning World of Spacecraft Reaction Wheels (PDF)

    Fundamental Aeronautics Program: Newton’s Laws for Students

    “From Stargazers to Starships” Site:

    Newton and his Laws

    Mass Measurements Aboard Space Station Skylab
    Comparing Masses Without the Use of Gravity

    Newton’s Second Law

    Newton’s Third Law
    Work Against an Electric Force: The Van de Graaff Generator

    Motion in a Circle

    Newton’s Theory of “Universal Gravitation”

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    New Don Pettit Experiments

    During his tour as the science officer of Expedition 6, astronaut Don Pettit spent some of his Saturday mornings conducting a series of scientific experiments. He videotaped some of the experiments and downlinked them to the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Pettit’s “Saturday Morning Science” experiments were conducted using ordinary items on the International Space Station. Pettit recently returned to the station as a flight engineer for Expedition 30. And again he is experimenting with everyday objects in microgravity.

    White knitting needle with drops of water on it and a drop of water floating near


    Don Pettit experimented with charged knitting needles and drops of water.
    The drops orbited the needles before adhering to them.

    NASA and the American Physical Society have begun a partnership to share videos from the space station with science fans around the world. The program is called “Science off the Sphere.” Each episode will end with a question for viewers. APS will review the responses and identify a winner. Pettit will recognize the winner in a later episode.

    DIY Podcast Micro-g module

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