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NASA Langley Helps Lead Math and Science Workshop for New Orleans Teachers
By: Patrick Lynch

Twenty three New Orleans middle school teachers got the opportunity this week to strengthen their math and science teaching skills at a NASA-sponsored education workshop.

Teacher workshop session.

CALIPSO project scientist Chip Trepte (far right) leads a session at the workshop earlier this week in New Orleans. NASA sponsored the event as part of its commitment to strengthening STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in the U.S. Credit: NASA/CALIPSO Workshop Team.

The Langley-based Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) mission sponsored the three-day workshop as part of NASA's outreach effort to improve STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education in the nation's schools. The workshop, "Clouds, Dust and Sunshine: Enhancing Our Understanding of Weather and Climate," brought together teachers from four parishes in the New Orleans area and from what is called the Recovery School District – a state-run district created in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The workshop was held in New Orleans in conjunction with an Earth science symposium being held there later this year.

The three-day workshop focused on the basics of climate science, but it also put strong emphasis on the fundamentals of conducting a science experiment. Teachers learned how to have their students learn the importance of every step of an experiment, using photometers to measure the strength of the sunlight reaching the Earth's surface. The experiment fits with several of NASA's Earth Science goals: to better understand how particles in the air and clouds absorb and scatter sunlight, which is a key driver of Earth's climate.

"The climate is something we all care about and hear a lot about," said Chip Trepte, a Langley researcher who is the project scientist for CALIPSO. Trepte led several sessions at the workshop. "Climate is driven by the balance between sunlight coming into the atmosphere and infrared energy going out. We want to teach people how dust and clouds can affect that."

A NASA-led workshop to study clouds and the sky.

New Orleans middle school teachers step outside a NASA-led workshop to study clouds and the sky. NASA Langley-based CALIPSO mission helped sponsor the workshop in Louisiana this week to teach educators the latest climate science and provide hands-on tools to inspire students toward math and science. Credit: NASA/CALIPSO Workshop Team.

The workshop also included instructors from NASA's MY NASA DATA program, the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) program and educators from Hampton University, University of Texas at Tyler and the Institute for Earth Science Research and Education.

Dianne Q. Robinson, chair of Hampton University's Interdisciplinary Science Center and a CALIPSO outreach partner, said the workshop will help teachers address content standards and bring the latest science technology to their students.

"We talked about some specific science concepts that relate to the standards they need to meet, and at the same time bring cutting-edge science into the classroom," Robinson said. "NASA is very much interested in inspiring the next generation. One of the things that we know interests students in science is doing real science and using real instruments instead of just using a textbook."

Jean May-Brett, Math and Science Partnership program coordinator for the Louisiana Department of Education, said she was thrilled for the local teachers taking part.

"We are very excited to work with NASA and for our teachers to have this opportunity," May-Brett said.

The workshop was held in New Orleans in conjunction with an October science meeting to discuss the findings from a constellation of five international Earth-observing satellites that fly in close formation called the A-Train. Teachers who took part in the workshop and some of their students will have the opportunity to attend the A-Train Symposium (Oct. 25-28) to see how scientists from NASA and other organizations present and discuss their work.

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