Unparalleled Student Experiences through the NASA Educator Workshop

During July 2001, I along with 24 science educators from 15 states attended the NASA Educator Workshop (NEW) at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The two-week program was a NASA Headquarters initiative managed by NSTA, and coordinated by Marshall’s Education Programs Department. The NEW program has been a catalyst in my career as a teacher of science. As a result of my participation, thousands of students have enjoyed unparalleled NASA experiences.    

Throughout the NEW workshop, I interacted with NASA scientists, engineers, technicians, and educational specialists learning about state of the art research and development occurring at the Center. The educational materials and activities presented during the workshop were related to aerospace technology, biological science and physical research, earth science, human exploration and development of space, space science, and rocket propulsion.  These opportunities gave me a broader perspective on how NASA could support my work in the classroom. Below are three programs I learned about during NEW and was able to bring to my students and community.

As a result of my experience at Marshall, I was able to raise several thousand dollars and arranged for a week-long visit of the NASA Mobile Aerospace Educational Laboratory (MAEL) to the Williamsville Central School District in April 2003.  The MAEL was a mobile 53 foot trailer which housed an electronically enhanced computerized classroom operated by the NASA Glenn Research Center.  During the week-long visit to Western New York, over 800 students from our district were engaged in aerospace lessons that modeled real-world challenges in aviation.  

In March 2004, I was the program coordinator for a live video downlink with crew members aboard the International Space Station.  During the downlink event, twelve students spoke with United States astronaut C. Michael Foale and Russian cosmonaut, Alexander Kaleri as they orbited 250 miles above earth. The program impressed on our districts 1200 middle school students and the estimated 6,000,000 people world-wide that read about or viewed the downlink how science and technology transcend national borders and in doing so enrich the lives of humankind.

During the NEW program, I received NASA lunar and meteorite certification.  This certification has enabled me to provide instruction to over 4500 students, and teachers using these tangible legacies of our nation’s Apollo space program.  Curricular activities I have incorporated since receiving certification include activities related to geologic history of the moon, lessons involving planetary processes such as impacting, and activities focused on the effects of earth’s atmosphere as they relate to the samples. For the past 15 years, I have coordinated a March Moon Madness event with our district planetarium director. The event is well attended by local Boy and Girl Scout programs. Approximately 1000 members of the community have gained knowledge of past, present, and the future of space exploration at this annual program.

The NASA NEW program has enabled me to bring the real world of aerospace to the classroom, my colleagues, and the community.  These aerospace educational activities I have implemented have made science, discovery, and exploration exciting for thousands of students.  By nurturing and challenging young minds, together we inspire our next generation of explorers.

I encourage teachers to subscribe to NASA Education Express to receive weekly announcements about opportunities available to them and their students. There is a journey waiting for you. Only as far as we seek, can we go. Only as much as we dream, can we be!

Kenneth L. Huff is a science teacher at Mill Middle School in Williamsville, New York and a member of the NSTA Board of Directors. 

If you have any questions please email me

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3 Comments

  1. christine herald
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Dear Ken,
    Sounds like you used these wonderful experiences to spread STEM education to MANY local students. Admire you!

  2. barbara morgan
    Posted September 7, 2017 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful article, Ken. Admire you too!

  3. Sarah
    Posted September 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Ken, thank you for the article. Do you have links to curriculum would can share?

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