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Educators Soar for Science
jsc2012e024973 -- NASA’s Office of Education provided the microgravity experience to help educators ignite student interest in STEM.

NASA’s Office of Education provided the microgravity experience to help educators ignite student interest in STEM. Photo credit: NASA

jsc2012e024799 -- Educators investigate how a slinky behaves in microgravity

Educators investigate how a slinky behaves in microgravity. Photo credit: NASA

A host of educators from around the country soared for science and experienced weightlessness as participants in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program.

The teachers conducted science and engineering experiments aboard a gravity-defying aircraft that simulates microgravity by flying a series of parabolic arcs over the Gulf of Mexico. Johnson Space Center’s Office of Education supplemented the experience by providing space-oriented professional development trainings that teachers can later use in the classroom to inspire students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

NASA’s Teaching From Space and Explorer Schools Program sponsored the flight week for educators. Teaching From Space provides educational opportunities that use the unique assets of human spaceflight to engage the Kindergarten through 12th grade education community and create space-related learning opportunities. Educators who took part in the program designed their own experiments with the help of their students, while Explorer School participants performed experiments built by the NASA education specialists.

The investigations ran the gamut of scientific inquiry and the experience gave educators insight into the engineering design process. A team from Lebanon School District in Tennessee tested three methods for wound closure; teachers from Warren Consolidated School District in Michigan explored whether convection currents form in micro and hypergravity; and a team from Council Rock High School South of Holland, Penn., tested the effects of microgravity on the control and use of a remotely operated vehicle, just to name a few.

Johnson Space Center engineers evaluated each team’s experiment for safety and viability factors during a test readiness review. This measure ensured that the experiments would be ready for the skies—a process similar to what hardware intended for space must endure before being deemed flight-ready. Teachers also spoke with NASA astronauts, worked with some of the agency’s subject-matter experts and toured JSC facilities.

NASA’s education programs not only allow educators to master the concept of microgravity, but the experience enables teachers to spark the interest of future scientists and engineers.
Rachel Kraft, 281-792-7690
Johnson Space Center, Houston