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Endeavor Professional Development Offers Opportunities
With a teacher's guidance, students investigate how to handle robots

Students in Renae Kelly's class learn to manipulate the CEENBot from the Peter Kiewit Institute at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. Image Credit: Renae Kelly

Meaningful professional development offers a chance for teacher improvement that can result in greater student achievement. But for three educators in the NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project, or ESTCP, their professional development has opened doors of opportunity for the educators themselves.

The Endeavor online professional development model is designed to create a national cadre of 200+ Endeavor Fellows who demonstrate leadership in use of NASA-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, content within their classrooms and in educator workshops at the district, regional and state levels. Since 2009, the NASA ESTCP has funded up to 50 educators a year to participate in online graduate courses in a live format. Throughout their individualized professional development, Endeavor Fellows explore how they will incorporate the content and best practices in their respective classes. The required Action Research Plan and Methods in STEM Education courses require participants to apply and evaluate delivery of the content and instructional methods. U.S. Satellite Laboratory Inc. and its partners of various state departments of education administer the ESTCP. New for Cohort 4 is a strand for Endeavor Fellows to put their coursework toward earning national board certification.

Renae Kelly is a Master Teacher and a High Ability Learner facilitator in Papillion, Neb. As a HAL facilitator, she travels to third- through eighth-grade classes and supports all main subject areas. Before the ESTCP, she thought that science was probably her weakest subject. Kelly learned about ESTCP after she participated in SPIRIT -- Silicon Prairie Initiative on Robotics in IT (Information Technology) -- at the Peter Kiewit Institute at the University of Nebraska in Omaha.

Since finishing her Endeavor certification, Kelly's teaching has changed. She is now more "on fire" about science. She is "more about laying the groundwork, showing students what's expected, and getting out of the way." She also is sharing her enthusiasm with three new Endeavor Fellows as a mentor for ESTCP Cohort 3. And while doing all of that, Kelly is working toward her recertification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Man sits in front of Apollo-era Mission Control console

Andrew Vanden Heuvel spent two weeks at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston for an internship with the Teaching From Space Office. Image Credit: Andrew Vanden Heuvel

Andrew Vanden Heuvel, another ESTCP Fellow from Cohort 1, says that the project offered amazing opportunities for teachers to gain access to science content and is a "great way for teachers to get a significant boost in using NASA content." For Vanden Heuvel, ESTCP was a starting point. With a master's degree in astronomy, he taught high school physics and astronomy. He has always had an interest in space education and NASA, so when the ESTCP opportunity became available, it fit his interests, including the convenience of online professional development. Today, he develops and teaches online courses with Michigan Virtual Schools. He is also a STEM Education consultant at USA TODAY supporting three projects developed in partnership with NASA. The three projects are No Boundaries, RealWorld-InWorld and Sight/Insight.

Vanden Heuvel interned for two weeks at the Teaching From Space Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The internship resulted from a proposal he submitted for ESTCP's NASA Summer Technical Experience. He proposed that astronauts on the International Space Station perform physics demonstrations. Those demonstrations now have become part of the NASA eClips video library. At Johnson, Vanden Heuvel also worked educational outreach events and facilitated workshops for Texas Aerospace Scholars -- an educational project of online classes for Texas high school students.

Teacher stands in front of a bulletin board with a 3-D space shuttle

Julie Gabrovic uses NASA lessons in many areas of her science lab. Image Credit: Julie Gabrovic

A third ESTCP Cohort 1 Fellow, Julie Gabrovic, had taught physical education for 18 years in Florida when her principal asked her if she would teach a science lab part time. The part-time quickly became full-time. To prepare for teaching science, Gabrovic subscribed to the NASA EXPRESS listserv. This listserv sends subscribers a weekly email with information about NASA opportunities and teaching materials. It was through EXPRESS that Gabrovic learned of the ESTCP. Now as an Endeavor Fellow she says, "I never thought in a million years that I would teach using NASA research. You can teach just about anything using NASA."

In addition to the required courses, Gabrovic selected Humans in Space, NASA Physics for Real Beginners, and Lessons From the Ocean for her three elective courses. It was that last course that helped to open doors of opportunity for Gabrovic. She and her students participated in a webcast -- The Oilspill One Year Later -- with professors from Columbia Teachers College and other NASA fellows.

This summer, Gabrovic interned for one week at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The internship was the result of a proposal that she submitted for an opportunity that was only available to Endeavor Fellows. The opportunity, Formal and Informal Planetarium Earth Data Partnership, calls for the Fellow and a planetarium educator to create an interactive exhibit for their local planetarium. Gabrovic's exhibit will be based on the topic "How is the ocean an integral part of the water cycle?"

Since participating in the ESTCP, Gabrovic has viewed a space shuttle launch from the VIP area. She also has presented at an education conference in Phoenix with leaders from U.S. Satellite Laboratory Inc., and is currently an Endeavor mentor. She has become the chair of the science department and is part of the science and mathematics task force in her school district.

Andrew Vanden Heuvel recognizes that the ESTCP is a "great way to get a significant boost in using NASA content." Julie Gabrovic was intrigued because, "Everything I turned in, I could use in my own classroom. We were able to tweak lessons to fit my classroom needs."

Endeavor mentor Renae Kelly found that collaboration helped her through the year she worked on her Endeavor certification. She learned that reading the professional articles and then discussing them with the other members of Cohort 1 made the reading more meaningful. As for her action research project, she says, "I don't think I would have been able to implement my action research without my colleagues or instructors."

Vanden Heuvel agrees that it was not only the project but the people that made Endeavor a worthwhile opportunity. "The camaraderie among dedicated teachers from across the country was something I will not soon forget. Couple this with earning graduate credit and the convenience of online courses, and you simply cannot go wrong. I wholeheartedly recommend Endeavor to any teacher with an interest in NASA, STEM and improving education for our students."

"It's a fantastic opportunity," affirms Endeavor mentor Julie Gabrovic. But she also emphasizes that the Endeavor Science Teacher Certification Project is "for people who are excited and want to gain and learn new knowledge. You have to be in it for the right reasons."

Applications for Cohort 4 are being accepted through Oct. 31, 2011, to receive a NASA fellowship for current and prospective teachers of science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Visit http://www.us-satellite.net/endeavor/index.cfm to apply.

Related Resources:
› Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project
› NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project   →
› Teaching From Space Office
› NASA eClips
› Sight/Insight   →
› RealWorld-InWorld NASA Engineering Design Challenge   →
› NASA and USA TODAY No Boundaries Competition   →
› Hubble Top Stars Profile of Andrew Vanden Heuvel   →

M. Denise Miller/NASA Educational Technology Services