Sunday, May 22, 2011
When we decided to go for the Teaching from Space Flight opportunity I left it up to the students to come up with the experiment. I had them watch a DVD that we got at Space Academy called Toys in Space. Astronauts demonstrated how various toys worked in gravity and in microgravity. They brainstormed after the video what they would like to test in both environments. The winning idea was bubbles. Kids love bubbles, they are inexpensive and our elementary classes could relate well to them. We have also had some amazing help from a local scientist and data analyst. Robert Bohlin from the NOAA weather station here in Flagstaff has come in to our classroom to help us work with the scientific method and Jonathan Wilkendorf from Lowell Observatory has been helping us collect and analyze our bubble data. The student are learning a lot, but I am too! From this experience I have realized that a lot of what I learned in my college elementary science classes just skimmed the top of the scientific method and looking back on my teaching I have been doing the same. Jonathan and Robert have taught me a lot about ALL KINDS of different variables in our experiment that I would have never even thought of. I am also learning so much about how to keep everything constant as possible so that the students have accurate data to report in the fall. We are recording the bubbles using flip cameras and then using computer editing software to allow us to measure the bubbles and record their longevity down to the hundredth of a second. Along the way we have learned that we need better lighting during our our taping because we weren't measuring correctly the size of the bubbles. We needed to add a temperature and pressure sensor, and the latest that Jonathan realized from the videos is that the bubbles are not being created with a controlled amount of liquid. The different sized bubbles mean that there are different amounts of liquid within those bubbles. This is something we can't change at this point, but will be noted in our final report. Jonathan told me that a lot of scientists usually learn something they never anticipated from their experiments. I had never thought about that and I think it is pretty cool. That is definitely what I am learning and it will help me be a better teacher down the road. This has all been a lot of hard work, but I know it will be worth it to the students in the end.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
The NASA Explorer School website is absolutely amazing! Talk about a great resource for teachers in all content areas. While at an NSTA conference back in October I went to their session about NES. Once the session ended I couldn't wait to get to a computer to sign up, and it's free! The program is great because it has so much to offer and because it is easy to get around. First they have the NASA Now videos. Each week they have a new 7 minute video focused on various areas that NASA works with or focuses on. It is nice to plug these in when there are a few minutes left at the end of the day. I also love that it shows students various careers through NASA. Then, there are the teaching modules. These are the awesome books that NASA distributes to the ERC's and at workshops. On this site you can have access to them whenever you want and print whatever you want! I have implemented the Rocket and Smart Skies modules into my 5th grade class this year and the kids love them! It really makes great real world connections and crosses into the language arts and math curriculum at various age levels. Now that I have learned more about them I plan on using them more next year. The bonus to go along with the modules is that they have video professional development right there so you can see how to use them in the classroom! If that isnt enough or your questions aren't answered then they also have online webinars focused on the modules. I have done four webinars and found them to be extremely helpful. I feel like the coolest part of this program is that they reward teachers for using these materials! You log your activities (and they dont always have to be from NES) and then you can become eligible for teacher recognition opportunities. I have logged around 30 NASA activities during the year so I applied for the GAVRT (Goldstone Radio Telescope) project in California and was accepted!! NES and NSTA are covering my costs to travel out there and spend the week learning how to use the telescope. Being a part of NASA Explorer Schools has helped me grow as a teacher and provide amazing opportunities for my students. Next year I will be trying the student symposium, new modules, and hopefully another teacher recognition opportunity. Try it out for yourself! You won't be disappointed.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Back in February a friend of mine sent me an email about an opportunity to fly an experiment on NASA's Vomit Comet. It sounded like the opportunity of a lifetime by the few vague details that were supplied. Little did I know what I was really getting into. One of my students wanted to test bubbles in gravity and microgravity to see which ones would last longer and why. I thought it was unique and different. Writing the proposal wasn't too difficult and I had some great help from my friends, but like I said, I didn't really know what we would be doing. I just thought we would be floating around the plane conducting fun little experiments. That couldn't be farther from the truth. After we were accepted the paperwork started flooding in. Hazard analysis, engineering specs for our materials, and the biggest stress creator of all... the Test Equipment Data Package (TEDP). So far, this is a 30 page report on every single tiny detail on how our bubble experiment is safe to fly. Obviously this is what they should do to keep everyone safe, but I have never been so stressed out (at one time to the point of tears) over a professional development opportunity. However, thanks to some amazing teammates and people in the community, we made it through. We submitted our final report last week, but I received an email today from Johnson space center that we have some things to fix. Thankfully, they assign you a NASA mentor to help write this TEDP so you can actually get approved to fly your experiment. Most of what they said we had to fix I have no clue what they are talking about. They even said that some of our formatting was "unacceptable". So now we have more work to do, but I know it will be worth it in then end. I know we are not engineers, but this has been a good learning experience about what engineers and scientists have to go through to fly an experiment on the vomit comet or the space station. It is very tedious and detailed, but this has given a good glimps into the world of NASA and scientific exploration. A word of advice for teachers wanting to pursue this experience.... be very prepared, have a clear SIMPLE plan, have hard working teammates, and be ready to get your hands dirty. I wish we could have started this in August instead of getting approved March 30th. I think it will be worth it in the end and I am grateful to NASA for the chance at this, but I'm not sure if I will pursue it again.
Monday, May 16, 2011
It's been almost a year since my life changing experience at Space Academy for Educators. This is an amazing opportunity for teachers to get an all expense paid trip to Space Camp courtesy of Honeywell. A dear friend of mine suggested that I apply for it and I did kind of last minute. I didn't know what to expect or if I would even get accepted. Later in the year it turned out that I did and I was in for the ride of my life! The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is an amazing place full of space exploration history. I had an appreciation for it all, but not to the extent that I have now. To be honest, at the beginning of the camp I was going through the motions, enjoying myself, and I was learning a lot. However, it was when I was on the stage during our graduation ceremony taking pictures of our team that I realized how lucky I was. Not only to be a part of this experience that hundreds of teachers apply for each year, but to build such wonderful friendships that continue today thanks to the internet. I do wish I could have gotten to know some of my teammates better, and I think I did take some of that precious time for granted. However, I do think our paths will cross again. Hopefully at Advanced Space Academy next year! For teachers interested in this opportunity copy the link here http://www.spacecamp.com/educators/honeywell/. From this experience I took my science teaching to a higher level, and it has opened numerous doors for more learning opportunities this summer. This is my story as I travel across the country this summer to experience four space science opportunities and a NOAA Teacher at Sea cruise. It is about getting out of my comfort zone, pushing myself, learning as much as I can for my students, and having no regrets. Let the adventure begin!