Name: Amanda Blough
2010-2011 School: Corpus Christi Catholic School
Subject: Science, Mathematics, Religion and Integrated Language Arts
Teaching Experience: Eleven Years
Featured Lessons Used:
-- Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber
-- NASA Now Classroom Videos
-- Live NES Chats
Amanda Blough is an 11-year teaching veteran who teaches fourth-grade science, mathematics, religion and integrated language arts at Corpus Christi Catholic School in Chambersburg, Pa. NASA Explorer Schools asked Amanda about her experience with using NES in her classroom.
What elements about the NES project drew you toward participating in it?
All of it! I think participating in the NASA Now events and live chats were just as exciting for me as they were for the kids. The summer teacher recognition was also a huge incentive. I was able to go to Huntsville, Ala., for the Water Filtration Experience and had the opportunity to have an experience of a lifetime with 10 other educators who are just as enthusiastic about NES as I am! I am looking forward to next year's teacher recognition. I also was drawn to participate in NES because of the professional development opportunities. They were a huge help when it came to using the content modules.
Which featured lessons did you use?
I used the Engineering Design Challenge: Lunar Plant Growth Chamber featured lesson. We also participated in the NES Chats with NASA subject matter experts and watched the weekly NASA Now videos.
The NASA Now videos provided the jumping-off point for using the featured lessons. Using these lessons is a great way to reinforce what the students learned from the NASA Now videos.
Did NES provide you with all of the needed elements to successfully use the content in the classroom?
The featured lessons are very detailed and are easy to read and understand. I used the questions before and after the NASA Now videos to spark student's curiosity. They are useful tools to introduce the topic and then follow up with it afterwards. I also enjoy the electronic professional development Web seminars because they allow me to see how to do these activities before I do them with my class.
Were there any difficulties in performing the activities? Did you ever use the Help Desk?
I haven't come across any major difficulties in these activities. They are straightforward. I also like how no significant costs were involved.
I used the Help Desk when I was registering for a few of the electronic development Web seminar sessions. The staff members were very helpful and fixed the problem I was having immediately.
What would you tell other teachers who aren't sure about trying the featured lessons?
I would encourage them to attend a live electronic professional development Web seminar or to use the on-demand teacher videos for an explanation of the lessons. My advice would be to start with an easier lesson, and then work toward those that might seem more difficult. Teachers should remember that the students love being engaged in hands-on activities, especially if they know that an astronaut has performed the same thing.
What's nice about NES is that you can spend a few minutes to a few days on any activity - it is such a flexible program. As far as funds for the activities, most of the items a teacher needs to complete the featured lessons may be found easily. I would encourage teachers to ask for parental support and/or supplies from other teachers. Teachers like to share!
Let's talk about your students. How did they respond to the NES content?
My students have shown such increased excitement since I started incorporating NES into my curriculum. They share that excitement with their families and friends who aren't in our class. I have heard several parents comment that they are learning just as much as their children are about the space program. The students look forward to the new NASA Now videos and were very active in asking questions during the live chats.
I have had many students tell me they would like to work for NASA when they grow up. One time, after we watched the NASA Now video "Robonaut," we built a robotic hand together as a class. I had several students who went home and built one themselves; several wanted to build a body that went with the hand. It was so exciting to see the interest continue after a few activities.
I think that teachers should be open to trying new things and should schedule time each week to do a new NES activity - whether it's as easy as showing a NASA Now video, attending a live chat, or planning to complete one featured lesson. Every Friday, I schedule a "NASA Friday" and show my students the most recent NASA Now video. It's great when it connects to something we had talked about in science class.
The students definitely are more excited about science, engineering, technology and mathematics after using the NES content.
Did other students in your school see what you were doing and become interested?
They definitely did. I teach in a Catholic school, and this year I had the opportunity to teach third-grade religion in addition to all the fourth-grade subjects. I would share with the third-grade students what the fourth-grade students were doing, and the third-graders were just as excited as the fourth-graders were. I know they are very excited about science this year.
Did you engage anyone in the students' families or from the community?
After my class chatted with astronaut Mike Foreman, I thought it would be amazing if an astronaut came to our school. In January 2011 that happened! We paired the visit with our school's first Science Night. I had attended a Sally Ride workshop in December and became certified to receive lunar rocks and meteorites. NASA astronaut Roger Crouch came to our school during the day and spoke to all the students in grades K-8. The response was tremendous! The students were engaged the entire time; when Crouch was finished, they wanted him to extend the session. His visit definitely will be something they will never forget.
That same evening, we had our school's first Science Night where the lunar and meteor rocks were on display for all the parents to see. Many of the parents commented on how excited their children were about seeing the astronaut, which led to the excitement of our Science Night. Our local newspaper and television station attended the events.
Will you do more featured lessons this next year?
I am planning on using many more featured lessons this year. I am more comfortable with several of the lessons, thanks to the electronic professional development sessions I attended last school year.
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