NASA Workshop Inspires New Teachers

June 2017

Five days of interacting with NASA scientists and engineers, learning about innovative ways to teach STEM, sounds like a new educator’s dream—and it came true for three students in Palm Beach State College’s Educator Preparation Institute.

PBSC Educator Preparation Institute attends NASA workshop.

Lindsay Adair, Catherine Ebanks and Amanda Jasper and their instructor Carolyn Slygh have just returned from such a workshop. Sponsored by the NASA Minority University Research and Education Project, the five-day MUREP Educator Institutes are designed for students enrolled in teacher preparation programs at Minority Serving Institutions. A nationwide initiative, it involves all 10 NASA Centers located across the U.S. The PBSC team attended the workshop at the Kennedy Space Center June 19-23.

The workshop, called “NASA’s STEM for All Students,” wasn’t just for those preparing to teach STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but instead focused on integrating STEM across the curriculum, including language arts and the arts. The workshop also addressed how to engage gifted, special needs and ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) children. Participants gained a deeper understanding of STEM-related topics and hands-on experience with high-impact instructional approaches and experiments. The nightly homework challenged students to create lesson plans based on what they had learned that day. Prior to the workshop, the students did about 20 hours of preparation, including webinars and exercises. Adair, Ebanks and Jasper will meet the post-workshop requirement by presenting their NASA lessons to a group of children, and Slygh will observe and debrief.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Slygh, who in addition to being a PBSC adjunct instructor, teaches advanced placement biology and biotechnology at Seminole Ridge High School. “The thing that impressed me the most was the number of resources that NASA makes available to teachers, and they’re all for free.”

The PBSC team also toured the Kennedy Space Center and witnessed the SpaceX launch on June 23. Teams totaling 47 students and nine faculty came from colleges and universities in the southeastern United States, as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

PBSC’s Educator Preparation Institute provides an alternative route to becoming a Florida K-12 educator for individuals who hold a non-education bachelor’s degree. Many EPI students are already teaching with a three-year temporary certificate and enroll in the program to meet the state requirements for obtaining professional certification.

The three EPI students attending the NASA workshop are new teachers: Adair teaches at Somerset Academy Canyons High School in Boynton Beach, Jasper at St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Palm Beach Gardens, and Ebanks is a sixth-grade math teacher at Bak Middle School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

“My time at the NASA program was life-changing,” Ebanks said. “I believe that I’m a better educator for my students because of the time that I spent there. So many times the kids are unable to connect what is being taught in the classroom to the real world, so I loved the fact that NASA made all of their information relevant and applicable to the universe and to this earth and to this life that we live.”

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