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NASA Trains Educators From Army Garrisons in Europe
A man holds two long balloons while two other people tape the balloons together

Teachers learn about heavy-lifting rockets by using balloons. Image Credit: Shari Asplund

NASA scientists and education specialists recently took part in the Bavaria Youth Technology Lab Training Extravaganza, an exciting, week-long workshop, in Ansbach, Germany. In May 2012, with funding provided by the U.S. Army, NASA personnel flew to Bavaria to engage, inspire and teach educators from the Department of Defense Dependent Schools and staff from Child, Youth and School Services.

The BYTE workshop was a special experience for everyone involved. The Department of Defense maintains bases all over the world and provides housing and educational opportunities for dependents of military personnel stationed on the installations. NASA has partnered with the U. S. military in the past to bring educational resources and training to staff in the U.S. for their after-school and summer school programs, but working with overseas installations is more complicated. Thousands of military families with children are stationed outside of the U.S., and the teachers at these overseas military bases do not have easy access to some of the hands-on training and content accessible to U.S. educators.

The Army community, including its Ansbach commander, was pleased with the opportunity to have NASA content presented to its students. "... This curriculum will bring a fun and exciting new era of learning to our children and youth," said Col. Kelly J. Lawler, U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach's commander, in his welcoming remarks. "It is a great professional development opportunity for staff and teachers across Europe."

Of the 15 Army garrisons in Europe invited to the BYTE workshop, 12 were able to send representatives. Three to four people came from each garrison. Of those in the four-person teams, one individual was designated to train more teachers at the garrison; two were school-age specialists working with grades K-6 and 7-12, respectively; and one was a functional technology specialist. From those who attended, the workshop had the potential to reach nearly 36,000 students!

The Army set out specific education goals for NASA personnel. First, NASA was to provide Army staff with hands-on experiences in space and astronomy content. DoDDS educators would receive training and materials to teach their students about NASA-related content. Second, NASA was to train the CYSS staff, who work with before-school, after-school and summer programs. The CYSS attendees were to learn how to train other coworkers at their garrisons in the same content. In this way, the workshop could impact even those unable to attend.

Seven people pose for a picture

NASA scientists and education specialists travelled to Germany to work with DoDDS and CYSS staff. (Left to right: Carlton Allen, JSC; Jaclyn Allen, JSC; Shari Asplund, JPL; Wil Robertson, MSFC; Shelley Hopper (standing), USAG Ansbach; Whitney Cobb, McREL; Lou Mayo, GSFC.) Image Credit: NASA

Shari Asplund, the education and public outreach manager for NASA's Discovery and New Frontiers Programs at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, spearheaded the NASA effort and organized the "cross-continent" training week. Shelley Hopper, Functional Technology Specialist with CYSS at U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach, was Asplund's contact and, according to Asplund, "the one who made it happen on the Army side."

Drawing on her experience and contacts from around the agency, Asplund put together a multitalented team of five NASA education and science experts, with one volunteer from NASA's Astromaterials Curation office. The NASA scientists and education specialists took the attendees on a week-long extravaganza in courses such as Balloon Rocket Challenge, Exploring Scale in the Universe, Rocketry, Space Weather, Robots, Astrobiology, Design a Future Discovery Mission, lunar and meteorite disk certification, Space School Musical, and more.

While in Ansbach, educators Wil Robertson and Whitney Cobb took the opportunity to go to high school and middle school classrooms. Robertson visited AP chemistry and physics classes, which included 57 students who took part in activities in robotic technology and nanotechnology. He noted the teachers appreciated their students’ having the opportunity to meet NASA representatives. Cobb brought the activity "Art and the Cosmic Connection" to roughly 80 middle school students, who were also excited about their experience.

Commenting on the Bavaria Youth Technology Lab Training Extravaganza and NASA's goal of promoting STEM education, Asplund said, "We hope that teachers are able to inspire the next generation of engineers, the next generation of scientists and perhaps the next generation of astronauts. Many people believe they have to be as smart as Albert Einstein to engage in the science of space and astronomy. But that isn't so," she said. "There is a scientist in all of us."

Related Resources:
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Heather S. Deiss/NASA Educational Technology Services