Press Release

NASA Educator Astronauts Take Science Outside of the Classroom

By SpaceRef Editor
August 26, 2007
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Daniel Loewen and Jim Esquivel are modern day explorers with a passion for intellectual growth. Loewen teaches at the Fresno County Office of Education Court Schools in Fresno, Calif. and Esquivel teaches at Buchanon High School in Clovis, Calif. Interestingly, shortly after the Columbia tragedy is when both Esquivel and Loewen decided to apply to the NASA Educator Astronaut (NEAT) program. When you see a tragedy, does it stop you from continuing towards your goal or does it push you? Now, your challenge is greater. Faced with adversity use that experience in a positive light. Thats how I teach. Thats how Jim teaches. Thats how my colleagues teach, said Loewen.

Barbara Morgan, another NEAT Astronaut, is slated to fly on Space Shuttle Endeavour on August 7, 2007. Barbara Morgan is from Fresno where were from and in 2003 we met her. There is a tremendous sense of awe that somebody with our background can be a part of our worlds future and live out their dreams, said Esquivel. It is a powerful statement.

When students ask Esquivel how to become an astronaut, he tells them to become a teacher. That we get to be in a profession that we love is wonderful. But, to be a part of this, thats the chocolate, whip cream, and the nuts on top.

I got to ride in the training shuttle simulator in Houston and got to take a tour of Kennedy Space Center. Discovery was on the pad and we kept getting closer and closer. I actually got to touch it. The tours have been very powerful, said Esquivel. I have had the opportunity to sit down with NASA scientists one on one and bring that experience back to the classroom, said Loewen. There is an entire network of Educator Astronauts and when we bring in NASA Explorer School teachers that broadens our outreach. Without a doubt, I have seen an increased interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) since I joined this program.

Both Esquivel and Loewen have noticed an impact not only with their students but also with other instructors and the schools they visit as NEAT teachers. Teachers need to continue to push themselves academically. Learning is fun. We dont believe that you start your career and stop learning. It is a continuing learning process, said Esquivel. Programs such as Spaceward Bound are intended to push the teachers academically. We take what were seeing and write it into our lesson plans. It makes the science books real because we have real life examples, said Loewen.

As an example of the positive impact that this program has had, Loewen tells the story of a student he has worked with over the past year. This young man had a very troubled past and was a gang member. Loewen teaches at a facility where he works with lots of troubled youth.

Loewen shared his enthusiasm for subjects such as biology and physiology andstarted bringing in examples of these subjects. I had no idea it went beyond what I was reading about, said the student one day to Loewen. The two worked closely together, as this student had hours and hours of questions on biology. His imagination was suddenly captured with the possibility of his future. Now, this young man will be the first in his family to attend college and intends to study viruses. Loewen had the privilege of meeting this young mans mother and she was in tears when she met him. As a mother, she must have been so relieved to know that her son now had a more promising future.

SpaceRef staff editor.