Personal Statement

“The Experience”

Pre-Service Teacher Evaluation of NASA Educational Resources

As an Education major, concentrating in Math, it’s important that I take extra steps in gaining the knowledge necessary to effectively communicate messages to my students. To me, apart of being an educator requires that I first gain my students trust and attention. In doing this, it will allow me to connect with my students and also secure their attention to be receptive to the message. Second, make sure that students understanding the message and finally show them that everything around them is a window of opportunity to further their understandings.

When I was given the opportunity to work with NASA, I was amazed at all the wonderful and informative resources that were made available to me. I knew that this would be a great place to start in my quest to prepare myself for the task and challenges I will face in my efforts to become a successful educator.

NASA offered me various levels of training and learning experiences, ranging from CORE (Central Operation of Resources for Educators) to SHARP (Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program). As you read on you will gain a better understanding of all the educational materials that I have evaluated this summer.


(Central Operation of Resources for Educators)

CORE is a worldwide distribution center for NASA’s education multimedia materials. CORE is a website that includes materials educators can choose to purchase. Some products include videotapes, slide sets, and computer software. These materials provide information gathered from NASA research and technology. CORE materials are kept current and updated frequently.

CORE provides materials for grades K-12. These materials are intended to compliment textbook assignments and lectures. The slide programs include a script or cassette to accompany the NASA photos. The computer programs are interactive education supplements that cover a wide variety of topics.

This resource is excellent for teachers. There are numerous different mediums provided for teachers to experiment with. Because the information is kept current, students using CORE materials will not be using out-dated or inaccurate information. CORE materials “…beginning in 2005 [will face] an expanded educational review process [which] will be implemented for all newly developed materials to ensure they meet [STEM] goals.”

The materials are reasonably priced and some are free. Video sets, like “The Case of the Great Space Exploration” are priced at only sixteen dollars and cover a number of national standards including physical science, measurement, and the nature of technology. Activities like “Send your art to space” allow students to create work for the purpose of sending it to space with the astronauts. Lynn Harden with IPA-Solar Division and main point of contact for GSFC’s NEAT program informed us about a Get Away Special (GAS) experiment she participated in with students at Duvall high school before working with NASA. GAS is a self-contained student project used to determine if roaches cold survive in space. The GAS can they prepared was sent up on STS95 in October of 1998. Experiments like GAS and send your art to space help students realize the practical applications of their science work.

CORE includes the entire educational community by providing resources for not only K-12 teacher, but also educators at the post secondary and informal levels. This is an invaluable resource that could help teachers expand beyond the “normal” science lesson plan to help further engage students.

CORE Suggestions and Pre-Service Applications

CORE provides teachers with materials and research that can be used to enhance STEM lessons. This is an essential resource, which often goes unnoticed. We feel the reason for this is because the site not readily accessible. As pre-service teachers, we spend a lot of time in classes or doing homework. When assignments require online research, NASA is not a website that immediately comes to mind. Before participating in this summer internship, we did not know about or think to explore the NASA website. Even if we did visit NASA’s education homepage, there is no quick link to CORE. Easier access to the CORE site would help us as pre-service teachers.

Once the website has been accessed, it is easy to navigate. It is well laid out and breaks the materials up by category and subject. We can use the materials to help us in our college courses. CORE provides classroom materials, including visuals, models, and videos, that compliment STEM lessons. For example, if we were teaching a second grade class about the moon, we could use the “Adventure Fleet Conquest of the Moon” memorabilia kit to allow the children to recreate a historic landing on the moon. Methods courses also require pre-service teachers to create lesson plans and hypothetical classroom designs. We could use CORE modules to enhance our lesson plans. For example, if we wanted to teach about living in space, there is a classroom module that includes videotapes, CD-ROMs, educator guides, slides, and more.

The only problem with CORE is the cost. As college students, we operate on a tight budget, so the cost could pose a problem. However, CORE is directly linked with the Educator Resource Center Network (ERCN), which provides the same materials for free! The CORE brochure conveniently provides ERCN information.

Fellowships in Mathematics and Science Project (FiMS)

FiMS is a three-year project in the fields of science, technology, and mathematics (STM). The First Goal of the FIMS Project is to strengthen the content taught in the classroom and to increase student achievement in STM. The Second Goal is embed Inquiry Learning into the classrooms. Inquiry lessons are activities that will help students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world. “The National Science Education Standards (NSES p. 23) define scientific inquiry as "the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work.”

The purpose of this project “is to actively engage teachers and their students in collaborative ventures that involve the study of science, technology, and mathematics (application of content through current research). This will be accomplished by the development of fellowship teams (college professors, educators and scientists/engineers) who will work with NASA research.” The expected outcome of the project is “to validate the educational impact of NASA research in educational settings and examine enhanced teacher knowledge through collaborative professional fellowship teams. The emphasis is on the content and learning processes (Cuban, 1993).”

NASA provides FiMS teachers are provided technological materials including laptops, USB flash drive, projectors, TI-83 calculators, and smart boards. They can bring these back to their schools and will be available throughout the duration of the project.

FiMS teachers report to NASA GSFC in order to create “fellowship teams.” Teachers choose a project that interests them most and relates to their educational background. They then work with NASA scientists to better understand the projects. The projects for the June training are GLOBE, Microgravity, and Return to the Moon and Mars.

I chose to shadow the Microgravity group. This group consists of all mathematics teachers mostly for grades 6, 7, and 8, but one is a secondary/post-secondary teacher. The teachers are working with researchers at Glenn Research Center to gain a better understanding of Microgravity. The lesson plans they create should help students “demonstrate an understanding of reduced gravity environments and why research and countermeasures are needed for human exploration of space.” Students are also expected to be able to make “predictions and observe the effects of reduced gravity on the human body.”

During a videoconference with Glenn Research Center, researchers presented three different lab-like lessons that incorporate microgravity into the mathematics classroom. The inquiry-based lessons incorporated velocity, gravity, and time in mathematical equations that allow students to see a connection between math and science fields. They also presented lessons that discuss muscle loss due to microgravity to show an interactive way to study percents, ratios, and percent change. After the conference, the teachers used the new information to collaborate and think of ways to incorporate the activities into their lesson plans.

A program like FiMS helps spark new, inquiry-based ideas in the teachers. Since they know their kids, they are able to tell which ideas will be most effective in their classroom. They are also able to break down their school year and decide which unit they these activities would be best suited for. Most importantly, the teachers learn how to connect their units with current NASA research.

Fellowships in Mathematics and Science

(FiMS) for Pre-Service Teachers

The FiMS program is beneficial to pre-service teachers. Once we reach our junior year of college and begin methods classes, we will begin learning how to create lesson plans. Since the participants are required to submit inquiry-based lesson plans to NASA, this program would help us learn to design lessons that are inquiry-based and engaging. We would learn what is required for inquiry-based lessons before entering the classroom. Another benefit is learning how to create multi-disciplinary lesson plans. FiMS teachers are given the opportunity to incorporate STEM curriculum into any subject. FiMS teachers learn, for example, creative ways to incorporate science and technology in the mathematics classroom.

Another benefit is the exposure to NASA research, which would help enrich our curriculum. We would enter the workforce aware of how to access current data and interesting ways to convey this information to our students. It would be helpful to learn these skills as a pre-service teacher because we could establish a teaching style early on that is inquiry-based and incorporates many subjects into one lesson.


(The Educator Astronaut Program: The Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers)

The Educator Astronaut Program (EAP) is designed to select a small number of “outstanding” educators to become members of the Astronaut corps. After participation, they should be able to inspire greater STEM achievements and promote STEM careers. They are also expected to develop original educational content based on EAP and flight activities. Top teachers who are not selected in EAP are offered an opportunity to participate in NEAT.

NEAT teachers are expected to use astronaut information to spread and inspire further knowledge about NASA opportunities to their classroom community. NEAT teachers also interact with AESP’s and the ERC. They are expected to inspire STEM teaching careers and elevate the teaching profession.

There are currently 40 NEAT participants at NASA/GSFC, but only 21 have attended the program. The program covers basic resources available at NASA. At GSFC, the teachers tour the center and then tour the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. They become certified with Lunar and Meteorite samples. They learn about the LRO “Robotic” mission. They tour the Visitor Center and the ERC and collect free materials for their classroom. Then, they hear Earth and Space scientists talk about their recent missions.

The Educator Astronaut Program (EAP)

The Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers (NEAT) for Pre-Service Teachers

The Educator Astronaut Program (EAP) would not be applicable to us as pre-service teachers. EAP requires experienced, high-caliber teachers to interact with astronauts and travel to space. As pre-service teachers, we have no experience in the classroom, and are still full-time students. We are not yet experts in communicating with and challenging students. We also wouldn’t have time to be trained and take necessary courses required to become an astronaut. However, it would be helpful to be aware of this ambitious program at the pre-service level so that once we become teachers we are already aware of this unique opportunity.

The Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers (NEAT) program appeals to us as pre-service teachers. The program is intriguing because it provides a thorough overview of NASA resources. It is similar to the Fellowships in Math and Science (FiMS) and NASA Explorer School (NES) programs because the teachers are introduced to NASA educational materials and are able to network with NASA personnel. As pre-service teachers, we would benefit from the professional development aspect of the NEAT program. For example, NEAT participants become certified to use Lunar and Meteorite samples in their classroom. If we wanted to teach a fourth grade class about meteors, we could use actual meteor samples along with the meteorite module.

Information is continuously updated so that NEAT teachers and their students are learning about the most recent, exciting breakthroughs at NASA. As pre-service teachers, we believe NEAT training help prepare us to be educators as we will learn to make contacts and become aware of and learn to utilize NASA educational resources. If the program were held in the summer, we would both attend NEAT workshops.

Trip to Port Discovery

Children’s Museum for ages 2-12

June 16, 2005

This trip entailed meeting the director of the Port Discovery museum, the exhibits director, and the head of educational outreach. The meeting was called because Port Discovery is interested in adding an exhibit about water. At this point, Pot Discovery employees are unsure of exactly how they want to approach the topic, but they are sure that they want a hydrology exhibit with the help of NASA research.

Brian Campbell, Formal/Informal Education Lead at the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory, and John Leck, Education Specialist, attended the meeting to represent NASA. Mr. Campbell provided information about the various online materials and contacts that are available for community access. For example, the Scientific Visualization Studio (SVS) and websites like http://watercycle.gsfc.nasa.gov. Since NASA could not promise funding assistance, John Leck and Brain Campbell were able to provide alternative free resources available through the NASA portal. John also discussed the possibility of using software programs Dr. Dan Laughlin had been working on which correlate with these websites.

Mr. Leck and Mr. Campbell began explaining the various websites NASA has to offer relating to water. This showed me the large span of resources NASA has made public via the Internet. However, there are thousands of websites which can be overwhelming when perusing the Internet.

Interestingly enough on the car ride back to GSFC, John Leck began discussing the Lunar and meteorite certification program. We would both enjoy being certified as pre-service teachers. This program would broaden our teaching capabilities by introducing us to interesting and exciting ways to present lunar and meteorite information to future students. We may want to wait until closer to graduation because the certification expires in three years, but LMSE appeals to us as pre-service teachers

Suggestions from a Pre-Service Teacher

We noticed the plethora of education websites NASA has available. For each project, a website is created. For example, the water cycle website includes a brief animated video that demonstrates the water cycle. These are great resources that could are helpful for us as pre-service teachers because we can become better acquainted with materials that are available to enhance lesson plans. However, there are literally thousands of websites available. This means that in order for us to find these sites, we will need to spend hours of our free time surfing NASA websites. There is currently a NASA portal, which is helpful because it allows searching by keyword, but the results do not always produce desired hits. We searched water to test this, and found a site called “Water, Water, Everywhere.” This site is provides general facts about water and NASA’s efforts to purify water. However, if we needed information about the water cycle, this search would not be helpful. A search for “water cycle” provides a brief dictionary-type definition of the water cycle. Not all the material returned is educational and therefore, we did not find it useful.

We understand that there is a website that began to conquer this problem, but it is not currently active. (Edmall.gsfc.nasa.gov) We would recommend using the NASA making the NASA site more user friendly by adding section divisions in the opening webpage (like “WATER” or “LAND”) as clickable pages. These would direct the user to a list of water or land related WebPages with clickable links and brief descriptions of the contents in the page. Basically, it would be helpful to modify the NASA portal by making it searchable by content (category). This would eliminate the undesired results that are given when searching by keyword. Interestingly enough on the car ride back to GSFC, John Leck began discussing the Lunar and meteorite certification program. We would both enjoy being certified as pre-service teachers. This program would broaden our teaching capabilities by introducing us to interesting and exciting ways to present lunar and meteorite information to future students. We may want to wait until closer to graduation because the certification expires in three years, but LMSE appeals to us as pre-service teachers


(Summer High School Apprenticeship Research Program)

The SHARP program is a selective Apprenticeship program. NASA centers around the country select a group of about twenty to twenty-five high schoolers who excel in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. They work with a mentor for eight weeks and conduct meaningful research in a professional work environment.

The objectives of the program are as follows:

  • To improve the problem-solving and logical thinking skills of students through mentoring and structured Apprenticeships, with emphasis on increased understanding of mathematical concepts and scientific inquiry.
  • To help students realize the importance of STEM through seminars, workshops, and research experiences.
  • To motivate students towards careers in scientific research and teaching.
  • To establish collaborative relationships with major universities and industries in order to provide Apprenticeships and research experiences for the participating high school students.

The Apprenticeship helps the students develop research skills and evaluate the career path they wish to choose. It allows the students to decide if a science-related career interests them. One key component that sparked my interest is, “Upon completing of the program, you are encouraged to use your skills and knowledge to help others in your communities to better understand science.”

SHARP as Pre-Service Teachers

After visiting the SHARP orientation, and reviewing paperwork and online information, we’ve decided that SHARP would not be the most beneficial resource for pre-service teachers. This is because the one-on-one interaction with a mentor provides the student insight into that particular field. For example, if they are working with a robotics scientist, they will do work pertinent to the scientists current project. This would not help a pre-service teacher.

If there was a desire to make SHARP relevant to pre-service teachers, you could pair the student with a member of the education team, or allow them to work with more than one mentor over the six-week period. They would still be able to work with scientists, keeping in mind that they are working with them in order to create a lesson that incorporates their research. This would expose teachers to a variety of networks they could use in their classroom, and inquiry-based, inter-disciplinary lesson plans.