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For release: 05/07/03
Release #: 03-072

Huntsville students featured in NASA education video series
NASA Education Program inspires next generation of...actors?

Photo description: Williams Technology Middle School students are featured in a new segment for NASA CONNECT.

Science and math may likely be your first thoughts when you think about NASA education programs. But for Huntsville students "starring" in an episode of the NASA CONNECT education video series, science and math come second to thoughts of Hollywood's "silver screen" or the New York stage.

Photo: Williams Technology Middle School students are featured in a new segment for NASA CONNECT (NASA/MSFC)

When thinking about NASA education programs, the importance of science and math may likely be your first thoughts. But for some Huntsville middle school students participating in the NASA education video series called "NASA CONNECT," those thoughts could change as they set their sights on Hollywood's "silver screen" or the New York stage.

On May 13, students from Randolph School and Williams Technology Middle School in Huntsville will gather for a sneak preview of a 30-minute production - in which they are the "stars" - of NASA CONNECT. It's goal: to enhance the teaching of math, science and technology to middle school students. The award-winning series, seen by more than 7 million students in over 7,600 schools, airs across the country on PBS affiliates, cable access stations and NASA TV.

The segment with Huntsville "actors," premiering nationwide May 15, will help viewers understand Sir Isaac Newton's first, second and third laws of gravity and how they relate to NASA's efforts in developing the next generation of space transportation. Like all the CONNECT segments, the episode is accompanied by a Web-based educator's guide describing hands-on and Web activities to supplement its themes.

"NASA CONNECT gives teachers and students hands-on lessons to apply what they are learning in the classroom," said Tammy Rowan, an education specialist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "It involves the student in a total learning experience that enhances the student's ability to think critically. The hands-on learning enables students to apply not only what they have learned, but more importantly, the process of learning, to various life situations."

In the fall 2002, Williams math teacher Vicki Smith, who had previously worked with the Marshall Center's education department and the NASA CONNECT series, was chosen to participate in the segment on Newton's laws of gravity. "The idea for the segment parallels what scientists are working on at Marshall," said Smith, "so it seemed an appropriate thing for schools in Huntsville to be part of." NASA CONNECT producers then decided to feature Smith's students in the segment - students to whom she'd taught other NASA CONNECT lessons.

When production of the taped segment began last fall, Smith's students "played themselves" during filming of their science class.

Randolph drama students auditioned for their parts. Three were cast to interact on camera with NASA CONNECT host Jennifer Pulley at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, and to appear throughout the episode.

"Working on NASA CONNECT gave my students experience working with a camera and crew," said Connie Voight, Randolph's drama teacher. "You don't usually associate NASA with acting, but for my students the experience could motivate them toward careers in math and science - and possibly into acting or video production."

Produced from NASA's Langley Research Center in Langley, Va., the CONNECT series has won numerous awards, including recognition at the 2002 International Film and Video Festival for creative excellence. The series has also been awarded six regional Emmys, including the award for children's programming from the Washington, D.C., chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

For more information about NASA CONNECT visit the Web site at:

For more information:
News release

Jerry Berg
Public Affairs Office
(256) 544-0034

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