Johnny, a Key Peninsula student, displays his winning patch design for the school's NASA patch contest. Image Credit: Kareen BordersNASA Explorer Schools across the country are improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics instruction by incorporating NASA content and support into their classrooms. But what happens after the project's three-year partnership is up?
--A Hooked on Hydroponics grant from the National Gardening Association to acquire gardening and lighting materials to grow plants without soil. The school's grant proposal outlined the correlation between NASA's plans for long-term space exploration and the need for alternate methods of food production.In addition to special projects, each year the school integrates more and more NASA and STEM materials into its curriculum. The school offers two elective classes for students who want to further engage in STEM. An aerospace and astronomy course is offered to eighth-graders, and sixth-grade students are offered a "mission specialist" class, which incorporates NASA topics with language arts, science, math and technology.
Key Peninsula teachers Cindy Knisely, Ron Stark and Kareen Borders participated in NASA Explorer Schools sustainability training at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Image Credit: Kareen Borders--Grants from groups including the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Washington Education Association. The grants are used to hold NASA family nights, involve teachers in professional development programs, enhance classroom materials, and send students and teachers to rocket launch opportunities at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and to NASA's Johnson Space Center to support reduced-gravity flight experiments.
--Grants to participate in the National Geographic Society's JASON project. The project incorporates research from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Geographic into science curriculum units for middle school students and professional development for teachers. The current curriculum, Operation: Monster Storms, teaches students how powerful storms form and how new technology is being used to better understand and forecast weather.
--Grants to support activities and materials to launch experiments on high-altitude balloons and rockets. Key Peninsula students designed one experiment that launched on a high-altitude balloon and two experiments that rode on a NASA sounding rocket. The balloon and sounding rocket programs are managed by NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. This year, the school was selected to launch three experiments on a suborbital rocket as part of the Launchquest program, which gives middle and high school students the opportunity to send research experiments into space.
--Educator participation in professional development opportunities offered by NASA and NASA partners. These include the National Optical Astronomy Observatory's Astronomy Research Based Science Education program, which trains teachers in astronomy content and research pedagogy; the NASA-funded Lunar and Planetary Institute, a research institute dedicated to studying the solar system; NASA's Spaceward Bound project where teachers experience field-based scientific research in an extreme environment, like the Atacama or Mojave deserts, and take what they have learned back to their classrooms; and the Spitzer Space Telescope Research Program, where teachers and students are given observation time on NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.
--Participation in activities related to NASA's Exploring Space Challenges. Exploring Space Challenges is a compilation of investigations and design challenges that span all grade levels in the primary and secondary schools. The project supports many of the national education standards for science, mathematics, technology and the arts. Key Peninsula students participated in the Mission: Hurricane challenge where students studied NASA hurricane data and then wrote a short story about the life of a hurricane.
--Participation in classroom activities based on NASA's Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber. Key Peninsula sixth-graders are participating in a NASA challenge for students to design and build their own plant growth chambers, or mini-greenhouses, and test them by growing cinnamon basil seeds that flew on the STS-118 space shuttle mission in 2007.
Eighth-grade students Katya and Kelsey present research findings at the NASA Explorer Schools Student Symposium in Washington, D.C. Image Credit: Kareen Borders--Student and educator participation in NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities. Two years in a row, students in the eighth-grade aerospace class have designed experiments to fly on a reduced-gravity flight. Both experiments tested the effects of microgravity on chemical reactions. The experiments specifically observed the rate at which baking soda and vinegar mixed to create carbon dioxide gas.
--Student participation in the Women Fly career exploration and networking event at Seattle's Museum of Flight. The school has received funds from the Peninsula School District for female students to attend the event.