Program puts NASA at school's fingertips

Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 30, 2003 at 11:41 p.m.
When NASA kicked off its Explorer Schools Program on Monday in Seattle, an assistant principal from Howard Bishop Middle School was there representing his school, which is one of 50 in the nation chosen to participate in the program.
Howard Bishop Middle School found out last month its team was chosen as an explorer school and that three teachers and Assistant Principal Rick Varner would travel to the Kennedy Space Center to develop plans for using technology with math and science instruction in sixth through eighth grade.
"We want to infuse space science into teaching," Varner said.
For the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the long-term goal is simple: get more students interested in science and technology careers before they reach high school, said Adena Williams Loston, an administrator of educational programs for NASA..
"Education is part of NASA's core mission," she said.
From July 19 to July 26, the team of Bishop educators, along with four other school teams from Florida and Georgia, will travel to Cape Canaveral to meet with engineers, scientists, teachers and other NASA employees.
Teachers will be taught ways to engage students in science and technology instead of the traditional lecturing, Loston said.
"We have vast resources available at NASA; we're going to make those resources available in our nation's classrooms," Loston said.
An example of NASA-developed technology that would be available to students is the use of earth imagery to track the movement of bird migrations, NASA officials said.
The biggest perk of the three-year partnership is that each school team will receive a $10,000 grant to aid with classroom instruction this year and another $7,500 across years two and three.
"You're talking about teachers who normally get $300 every year for materials," Varner said.
The money, Loston said, may be used on equipment such as hand-held computers, graphing calculators or professional development for the teachers.
The 50 school teams were chosen from about 430 applicants nationwide, NASA officials said. One factor that went into the selection process was if the schools had a high minority or high poverty student population. Bishop has about 60 percent minority students.
Each of the three instructors in Bishop's team teach in the school's magnet program, the Academy of Technology and Gifted Studies, but Varner said that all students would benefit from Bishop becoming an Explorer School.
"It's not going to stay within the academy; that would defeat the purpose," he said.

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