ISS National Lab Announces Five Recipients of Inaugural Expedition Space Lab Education Funding Opportunity

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
October 19, 2022
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ISS National Lab Announces Five Recipients of Inaugural Expedition Space Lab Education Funding Opportunity
Expedition Space Lab Education

School children in Pinellas County and four districts nationwide are getting a boost to keep “reaching for the stars” thanks to the International Space Station (ISS) National Laboratory.

We are “over the moon” to announce the first recipients of our educational funding opportunity for Expedition Space Lab, an online tool for educators to easily access ISS-related lessons and resources from Space Station Explorers (SSE) educational partners and NASA.

Pinellas County Schools on Florida’s west coast will use its $10,000 in funding to unlock enhanced resources offered through Expedition Space Lab. The district serves more than 95,000 students, nearly half of whom are economically disadvantaged; 14% are students with disabilities, and 6% are English learners. In addition, four other educational organizations in Kentucky, Colorado, and Kansas will each get $1,000 in funding from the ISS National Lab to purchase Expedition Space Lab resources.

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is a strategic priority for the ISS National Lab. Through Expedition Space Lab, schools, museums, and other educational organizations can use ISS-related resources to teach STEM subjects and inspire future scientists and engineers. By incorporating a “Space Lab” into their classroom or organization, educators can show students what is possible when gravity is no longer part of the equation. Expedition Space Lab provides lessons that are free for educators and students, as well as supplemental resources with associated costs that can provide a more engaging learning experience.

In working to shape the next generation of leaders and explorers, the ISS National Lab promotes diversity in STEM education and encourages outreach into underrepresented communities. This inaugural funding opportunity will make supplemental Space Station Explorers resources more accessible to the recipient educational organizations. Pinellas County Schools embodies the spirit of this funding opportunity with its diversity of students and outstanding partnerships, along with its exceptional use of funds to facilitate professional development for their educators participating in Expedition Space Lab. Pinellas County Schools will share responsibility for its Space Lab with the Innovation Lab at St. Petersburg College (SPC), Seminole Campus, which will manage the equipment.

The Expedition Space Lab facilitator for Pinellas County Schools, Catherine Mullins, says the funding will help students explore potential careers in space and gain inspiration from guest speakers like former NASA astronauts and accomplished engineers and innovators in the space community.

“Pinellas County Schools is proud and honored to be chosen as the first recipient of the Expedition Space Lab funding,” said Mullins. “We’re excited to partner with St. Petersburg College’s Innovation Lab and STEM Center to provide teachers with the professional development needed to bring the wonders of space into the classroom. The Space Lab will give our students hands-on opportunities to explore space science and the International Space Station while engaging in space-related career exploration.”

Mullins, the secondary STEM staff instructional developer for Pinellas County Schools, says the funding will enable six hours of professional development for educators, along with classroom kits they can use to teach their lessons. Such lessons may include learning about the electromagnetic spectrum and its composite radiation wavelengths. Students could then build a spectrometer to detect which radiation wavelengths are emitted from different light sources. Lessons may also include learning about how computers work, basic computer programming, and robotics.

Four other organizations were selected to receive $1,000 due to the outstanding nature of their applications. They described for us how they will use their funding:

Saint Michael Catholic School in Louisville, Kentucky
“When I was notified that my school would receive Expedition Space Lab funding for my classroom, I was over the Moon! These funds are going to help students understand scientific phenomenon through hands-on learning experiences, which are tied to space exploration. I’ve never seen any topic inspire students quite like space does. I’m excited that the ISS National Lab is supporting our Space Lab and future explorers!”– Kaci Heins, Educator and Project Lead

Smoky Hill Education Service Center in Salina, Kansas
“At Smoky Hill Education Service Center, we are so excited and honored to be selected to receive Expedition Space Lab funding to offer real space experiences to over 50 districts that we support. This funding allows us to purchase equipment that can be combined with professional development and other resources to equip teachers to use space exploration as an integral part of their curriculum. Thank you to the ISS National Lab for providing this funding to inspire and motivate students to become curious investigators and explorers of their universe.” – Pam Kraus, CTE Coordinator and STEM Consultant

The Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, Colorado
“The Space Foundation is thrilled to receive Expedition Space Lab funding to help build our International Teacher Liaison Mentorship Program! We will purchase supplies to help increase engagement in local pre-service and early-career teachers by giving them resources to inspire their students to become active STEAM citizens.” – Anna Shaw, Education Program Manager

Winburn Middle School in Lexington, Kentucky
“I feel privileged to work in a diverse community that recognizes the future is limitless if we are brave enough to dream it. Thank you to the International Space Station National Laboratory for investing in our classroom and future aspirations! We are so excited to partner with the Space Station Explorers partner programs this school year.” – Jenny McCall, Program Facilitator

McCall adds that Winburn Middle School students will engage in design and modeling, flight and space, and medical detectives as exploratory classes starting this fall. The Expedition Space Lab funding will allow students to have hands-on experiences observing phenomena and collecting, analyzing, and presenting real scientific data while also exposing them to the diverse careers available in the aerospace, biomedical, and engineering industries.

Congratulations to all of our recipients!

“On behalf of the ISS National Lab, Space Station Explorers is thrilled to present five educational organizations with funding to bring Expedition Space Lab resources to the students and youth they serve,” said Courtney Black, Education Project Manager for the ISS National Lab. “We received many phenomenal applications and would have loved to award funding to all who applied. The five funding recipients stood out from the crowd due to their outstanding use of funds and wide reach across multiple demographics. We are delighted to work with these organizations and cannot wait to see their Space Labs in action.”

Educators, do you want to take your exploration a step further? Sign up to be a Space Station Ambassador and promote amazing opportunities to bring space into your classroom! Reach for the stars!

Media Contact:
Patrick O’Neill

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.