Press Release

NASA’s Marshall Center Workshop Turns Teacher-astronauts into Students for Two Days

By SpaceRef Editor
April 21, 2005
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NASA and the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., recently turned the tables on a group of American teachers. The five teachers, hailing from Sioux City and Paulinna, Iowa; Rogersville and Columbia, Mo.; and Albertville, Ala., took on the roles of students for two days at a workshop sponsored by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

The workshop is a key element of NASA’s new Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers program, or NEAT. The program brings together outstanding teachers whose interest in space and leadership in the classroom inspired them to apply for the Astronaut Corps. Through workshops and seminars at NASA centers across the country, the educators enhance their skills in conveying to students the importance of math and science education. They are encouraged to share and demonstrate innovative methods for teaching technical subjects. And they are provided classroom materials for their students. NEAT also keeps teachers informed about future career opportunities for their students in the space program and how best to prepare students for those opportunities.

“The more ‘real’ I can make the space program to my students, the better,” said Matthew Allner, a teacher from West Middle School in Sioux City, Iowa, who attended the workshop at Marshall. “By expanding my knowledge and gaining first-hand experience through the NEAT program, I not only can better explain how math and science are used in our every day lives, but I also can show them — through real-life examples like the International Space Station —  and inspire them to continue taking these subjects.”

NEAT was initiated by NASA in 2003 as a result of the overwhelming number of nominees for the Educator Astronaut Program. Approximately 200 educators were chosen by an educator peer-review panel to participate in NEAT, from more than 1,600 who applied for three Educator Astronauts openings in last year’s astronaut class. The recent Huntsville workshop invited teachers in the Marshall Center’s regional area, which includes Alabama, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas. The NEAT program will hold its next regional workshop at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, in June.

All NEAT participants remain eligible to compete for future Educator Astronaut openings, as long as they are active in the classroom.

“NASA brings together the brightest and most ambitious teachers to support the NEAT program through the schools,” said Vanessa Suggs, education program specialist for the Office of Academic Affairs at the Marshall Center. “They’re an invaluable asset to NASA in inspiring our next generation of engineers, scientists and explorers.”

“NASA has a unique ability to capture the imagination,” said Andrew Kinslow, a teacher from Logan-Rogersville High School in Rogersville, Mo. “If you can take a subject and bring it to life with real-life situations, you have a ‘teachable’ moment. And it’s in those moments that you have the opportunity to have a positive impact on their education.”

At the Marshall workshop, the teacher astronauts learned about the space program and shared ideas for teaching Earth Science in the classroom.

But it wasn’t all work and no play. The teachers traded in their pens and paper for some hands-on astronaut “training.” The participants trained for and completed a simulated Space Shuttle mission, using Mission Control and Shuttle Orbiter mockups at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The practice simulation gave them an inside look at the different roles of NASA employees to ensure a safe and successful Shuttle mission, while also highlighting the importance of teamwork in the space program.

The group also took a tour of the Marshall Center, visiting the Payload Operations Center, the science command post for the International Space Station, and the Environmental Control and Life Support System facility — the life support system that provides the Space Station with clean air, a comfortable living environment and potable, or drinkable, water. The teachers also visited the Army-NASA Virtual Innovation Laboratory, a research and development facility that applies virtual reality software for space hardware systems analysis, modeling, simulation and training.

Participating in the Marshall workshop April 5-7 were Allner and Kinslow; Jennifer Reed-Taunton of Alabama Avenue Middle School in Albertville, Ala.; Paul Mahoney of Columbia Independent School in Columbia, Mo.; and Kevin Brasser of South O’Brien High School in Paullina, Iowa.

For more information about the Network of Educator Astronaut Teachers or the Educator Astronaut Programs, please visit:

SpaceRef staff editor.