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Islands of Knowledge
A student demonstrates an astronaut sleeping bag

During the education team’s visit to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Kennedy Space Center educator Christopher Blair helps a student demonstrate an astronaut sleeping restraint. Image Credit: NASA

NASA is constantly expanding its presence to new places.

On Mars, the Opportunity rover is exploring Santa Maria crater. The MESSENGER spacecraft is preparing to be the first to orbit Mercury. The New Horizons probe is hurtling through Deep Space toward Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. And, a little closer to home, NASA's Educator Resource Center network has expanded its reach to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

NASA's Educator Resource Centers are located throughout the nation to help teachers learn about and use NASA's educational resources. Staff at the ERCs provide and explain materials that are available for teachers and give demonstrations of educational technologies such as the agency's educational websites and NASA Television. The centers offer professional development for educators using NASA instructional products to excite students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Each of NASA's field centers has an Educator Resource Center nearby, but there are additional ERCs around the country. The new Regional Educator Resource Center in Kingshill on St. Croix in the United States territory of the Virgin Islands is the latest expansion to the network.

Students watch a video of an astronaut in space

Kennedy Space Center educator Annesly Wood explains how astronauts eat in space to students at the Florence Williams Public Library in Christiansted in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Image Credit: NASA

The NASA and Kennedy Space Center education offices recently sent a team to hold a "housewarming" for the new facility, located at the U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Education's St. Croix Curriculum Center.

In addition to providing professional development workshops for educators at the center, the team visited several schools and educational facilities on the islands of St. Croix and St. Thomas. NASA education officials gave students the opportunity to participate in hands-on science presentations on topics such as the phases of the moon, rocketry, robotics and life on the International Space Station. In four days, the team worked with more than 1,000 students.

The presentations not only gave students an engaging look at NASA science: they also gave educators real-world demonstrations of the sorts of resources available for formal and informal education at the new ERC.

Cheryl Thornton, an education project coordinator at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said that while the team members encountered some interesting situations during their stay in the U.S. Virgin Islands, they had a very successful trip nonetheless. "We remained true to the reason why we came: To encourage, educate, inform and inspire not only the youth but educators, teachers and the general public using NASA STEM content, and developing relationships as we reached out not only showing that NASA now has a presence in the U.S. Virgin Islands but that we are here to stay!"

A student holds two halves of a cookie

NASA education lesson plans offered through the ERC can make learning about moon phases a tasty hands-on activity. Image Credit: NASA

Susan Allick has been part of making sure that presence is there to stay. A librarian at the St. Croix Curriculum Center, Allick staffs the new Educator Resource Center. Since the team's visit, she said, interest in the ERC has remained high. "We have a very nice facility and conduct after-school workshops for 8-10 teachers at a time in our room," she said. "So far, we have had three sets of workshops and individual visits."

Allick said she's supplementing the workshops with school visits; in a two-day period, she presented at an elementary school and a junior high school. The presentations included leading students in making paper rockets and rocket racers. "I am making it known that the classroom teachers can have me come to their class, co-teach if necessary, come back to observe them, etc."

Teachers interested in using their Regional Educator Resource Center can visit the NASA Educator Resource Center website.

Related Resources:
› NASA Educator Resource Center Network
› NASA Education

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services