Utilizing videoconferencing equipment purchased through an HHEF Innovative Learning Grant awarded to Hallowell Elementary School Principal Steve Glaize, all 5th graders at the Horsham school participated in an hour- long, distance learning class with NASA in November. Though it was their first interaction with a NASA scientist, they were well prepared for the material in the lesson thanks to science teacher Beth Schrader, who said the use of this technology enriched the learning experience by taking her students outside the classroom to learn from experts. “This takes our students to a whole new level of learning,” she said, “and we have only just scratched the surface.”
The NASA trainer participating in Hallowell’s videoconference was based in the Houston, TX center, one of 10 training centers, she told the students, and one that provides training for the astronauts. She showed them live video from an underwater lab used to simulate the space environment and one from the international space station. Students viewed astronauts floating around the space station and, from their Horsham classroom, saw the station’s view of the earth. There was a lot of interactive discussion, including how the space center uses solar panels as its main energy source, and questions about how the trainer got her job at NASA.
NASA looks for people in varied fields including teachers, scientists, and those with robotics and programming experience, but most importantly, she told the students, “Stick with math and science.” Everyone at NASA, she said, took a lot of math and science in school.
HHSD Science Coach Rachel Hartman said NASA was a good connection by which Hallowell students learned science concepts directly tied to their curriculum. Kathy Krupa, HHSD technology specialist, encouraged teachers to utilize the video conferencing equipment to “improve student achievement by helping them become active participants in their own learning. Giving students the opportunity to interact and talk directly with experts such as this,” she said, “helps to maintain student attentiveness and participation.”
The videoconference also was an opportunity to teach students learning, listening and presenting skills that were well utilized in this interactive experience. HHEF is proud to be a part of this hands-on approach to learning about science.