NSTA launched its first fall area conference for 2007 on Thursday, providing science educators from across the nation multiple opportunities for professional development.
NSTA President John Whitsett talks with General Session speaker Sally Ride.
NSTA’s Detroit Area Conference on Science Education is taking place at the COBO Center in downtown Detroit. Activities will continue through noon on Saturday, October 20.
“I hope you enjoy yourselves,” Kelly Landin, the conference’s program coordinator, told attendees as she welcomed them to the event.
The first day of the conference began with Sally Ride serving as the guest speaker for the General Session. Ride, a former NASA astronaut and the first American woman in space, made a presentation titled Reach for the Stars.
“I’m very passionate about science education,” Ride told the crowd as she began her presentation. “Science and technology are the engines that drive our economy.” But Ride noted that society is not placing emphasis on these areas in educating our children.
Ride explained that schools can play an important role in changing this trend. Ride noted that learning needs to start early. When students are young, they love science. But then students begin to lose interest in the subject when they are in middle school. “We need to put the emphasis back on math and science,” Ride said. “It’s critical that we provide the workforce with the skills students need to compete globally.”
Mike Huber of Temperance, Michigan, and Susan German of Hallsville, Missouri, play Orbit Bingo.
Ride shared with attendees that she became interested in science around the ages of seven or eight. “Science was my favorite subject in school,” said Ride. Ride’s parents (who were not scientists) help foster her interest by talking to her teachers. Ride observed that two of her teachers stood out to her “because they helped me build my self-confidence.” Students “need a boost in their self-confidence,” Ride noted.
After graduating from high school and attending college, Ride continued her education by earning a doctorate degree at Stanford University. One morning at school, Ride saw an advertisement for NASA in a local newspaper. The space agency was looking for astronauts. “The minute I saw that ad, I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Ride said. Ride added that the ad was important because NASA had not accepted astronauts in 10 years and women had never been sought for the position.
Ride applied for the job and was accepted. “My father was the happiest person on the planet,” she said.
After earning her doctorate degree in physics, Ride packed her bags and moved to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, to begin her journey into space aboard the STS-7. The mission, Ride said, was my “first chance to strap into a launch pad. I got to experience weightlessness for a week. That’s something I recommend to all of you.”
Ride was also the focus of a special preconference event titled Join the Journey: Celebrating Teachers. The event featured fellow astronaut Barbara Morgan, Morgan’s husband, Clay, representatives from NSTA, NASA, Sally Ride Science, and science teachers and association executives from across the nation.
NSTA member and astronaut Barbara Morgan presents an autographed photograph of herself to an attendee.
Like Ride, Morgan told attendees at the event she also experienced weightlessness while aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Morgan recalled her journey into space sharing memories with her colleagues at the event
Training for the flight was challenging, Morgan said. “It was really hard, but not has hard as teaching.”
When August 8, 2007, arrived (the day of her launch), Morgan noted she felt relieved. “I was trying to experience the feeling of it. But your mind is focused on getting everything done. It’s hard to separate the feelings,” she said.
Once in orbit, Morgan noted she was very busy working. Morgan spent her time setting up computer and photo and television equipment. She also worked on the shuttle’s robotic arm. She worked on the robotic arm in teams with her crewmates. “We were all working together, helping each other out,” she observed. Morgan and her crewmates also spent time working on the International Space Station. Morgan also conducted educational activities from space for students.
Julie Baumgardner of Columbus, Ohio, and Karla Wright of Lebanon, Tennessee, look at education payload hardware used on the space shuttle Endeavour.
“She’s a teacher,” noted Clay Morgan while speaking to teachers during a luncheon at the event. Clay Morgan noted that while his wife was aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, she would always explain things. It was “what I was most proud of,” he said.
Besides hearing Morgan speak, attendees at the preconference were able to participate in three break-out sessions that included hands-on activities and presentations.
In one session, titled Space in the Classroom, attendees were able to view several pieces of education payloads taken aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.
“It makes a huge impact with kids,” Jon Neubauer, an education specialist with NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said of the education payloads. Neubauer served as the session’s presenter.
Attendees were able to view a plant growth chamber, a syringe used to inject water in the chamber, a bag of basil seeds, and other items. Attendees then had the opportunity to build their own prototype of a plant growth chamber using inexpensive materials like a paper plate, straws, and a metal pan.
“There's a lot of great lessons teachers can teach with these growth chambers,” Neubauer said.
In another session, titled Earth From Space—What Can You See?, attendees learned what they could do with EarthKAM.
Presenter Amber Schnaider of the Insight School of California explained how EarthKAM enables educators browse online activities and resources. Teachers can also learn about the International Space Station, orbital mechanics, and map skills. They can also look at images from other schools and students’ work, as well as conduct investigations.
Attendees had the opportunity to play Orbit Bingo during the session. This activity involved attendees taking M&M candies and placing them on a Bingo card while using a map to find longitudinal and latitude points.
“It’s a fun game,” observed Susan German, an earth science teacher from Hallsville, Missouri.
A special panel discussion titled Visions of Teaching and Learning in 2020 enabled attendees to gain insight in the future of the education profession. Moderated by Frank Owens, NSTA’s associate executive director of professional programs, the panel featured association executives from five organizations.
Each panelist was asked to comment on their thoughts for what teaching and learning might look like in the year 2020. The panelists’ comments are listed below.
Donald Knezek, CEO, International Society for Technology in Education: “I think we will see evidence of learning following the student. I’m not sure how, but I’m curious to see. Technology and interactive media will become more important. Our learning landscape is becoming more global and digital. And so learning opportunities will multiply.”
James Rubillo, Executive Director, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics: “In the future, I hope we will have specialties. We have to go in that direction. I’m worried about equity. I hope teachers will teach a broad spectrum of students. I see great signs of hope among are students. The next generation of students is more service-oriented.”
Kathleen Yancey, President-Elect, National Council of Teachers of English: Yancey presented various scenarios of students using different technologies. She noted students will use many technologies and be networked. Students will also be reflective and use interpersonal intelligence to create, learn, and discover.
John Whitsett, NSTA President: “We need to start taking a different look at education, and technology is a part of that. Our kids are competing for jobs on a worldwide level, not across the street. We need to focus on problem-solving and critical thinking. Students also need to communicate effectively and collaborate. They have to work with other people to effectively solve problems.”
Andy Stephenson, President, International Technology Education Association: “Students are being prepared for jobs that don’t exist yet. We can help with that by engaging students in technology. We need to encourage students to be creative problem solvers … not just memorize knowledge. But seek that knowledge and learn how they are going to it.”