Houston Teacher Engages Students With Hubble 'Foldables'
Jacky Byatt remembers the first time she laid eyes on Hubble Space Telescope images of space. One glimpse, and she was hooked. "My memory of seeing those first pictures -- how surreal they seemed!" said the sixth-grade AIMS math and science teacher at Budewig Intermediate School in Houston, Texas. AIMS is the gifted and talented program of the Alief Independent School District.
Byatt was born in Shalford, England, and lived there until her family moved to London when she was eight years old. She recalls her own experience as a young student and knows firsthand the powerful effect that seeing has on believing.
"I remember the first moon landing. I came home from Brownies, the English version of Girl Scouts, and it was on the TV news," said Byatt. "I was positively riveted and have been ever since."
Determined not to subject her students to the same "horrendously boring science classes" that she endured, Byatt engages her students through creative classroom opportunities.
"We had well-stocked science labs at my school, but all I remember was copying from a textbook -- pages and pages of who knows what? I don't remember any of it!" said Byatt. "I've found that students get more connected to their work when they have the chance to be creative."
An example of Byatt's innovative approach to science teaching is her use of foldable cards. Byatt asks her students to research Hubble and its numerous discoveries from the last 20 years, and then instead of making a list or writing a report, they create a timeline of events using folded card stock or construction paper.
Byatt's activity and lesson plan earned her a "Gold Star" in the NASA-sponsored Top Stars contest, conducted by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies in cooperation with the Space Telescope Science Institute. The contest recognizes as "Top Stars" educators who document exemplary use of Hubble in science, technology, engineering or mathematics education. The top-10 Top Stars were awarded Gold Stars.
Dinah Zike, an education consultant in San Antonio, Texas, is said to have invented foldables, which allow students to organize and display information in a way that makes concepts easier to grasp. Byatt's students illustrate their findings by pasting a picture of a particular discovery and writing its date on the front of the foldable. On the inside, they write more information about the discovery and the names of involved scientists. Each four-inch wide foldable is then posted in chronological order on a timeline made from cash register tape.
By the end of the project, successful learners can describe events on the Hubble timeline accurately without looking at it and can determine quickly which of two events occurred first. Byatt believes the activity works because it's hands-on.
"Obviously, a student needs to know how to find information in a textbook, but it should not be the primary resource, especially not today when there is so much information readily available on the Internet," Byatt said. "How exciting it is when a student catches on to a concept and totally believes that they have 'discovered' it for themselves!"
Byatt adds that space in particular is an important environment for her students to understand.
"They constitute the scientists and mathematicians of our future. Working and living in space may be in their future," Byatt said. "Therefore, they need to better understand that natural hazards in space are different from those experienced here on Earth. There may not be hurricanes and tornadoes, but there will be meteor showers, solar flares, and extreme cold or heat."
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Karen Nozik: Institute for Global Environmental Strategies