Teachers Experiment with Science Instruction at Summer Institute

A teacher performs an experiment at the BCM summer institute

As a team of presenters from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) explained the agency’s presence on the International Space Station and described potential future trips to Mars, it quickly became clear that their talk wasn’t solely about reaching past the Earth’s atmosphere and beyond, but was also about setting the foundation here at home to continue their work.

Approximately 250 teachers listened to a speech given by NASA’s Crew and Thermal Systems Division as part of their studies this month at the Baylor College of Medicine Summer Science Institute (SSI). The group is comprised of HISD science teachers in grades 1 through 8.

Following the speech and some hands-on time with NASA equipment, teachers returned to their classrooms at Herod Elementary School for some intensive science instruction geared toward their respective grade levels. But it wasn’t just learning from a book—the teachers also rolled up their sleeves and conducted experiments just as their students might be expected to do in their classrooms.

“The goal is to have teachers learn as much as they possibly can to take back to their students,” said Glenda Treviño, a science lab instructor at White Elementary School and a teaching instructor at the SSI. “We want them to share and implement the lessons they learned in their classrooms this coming school year so our students can get excited about science.”

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Trainings at the weeklong institute focused on a variety of topics including motion, energy, and electricity.  “The instruction for the institute was created with the district’s curriculum in mind,” said Michael Vu, the senior program manager at the Center for Educational Outreach at the Baylor College of Medicine and a former HISD science teacher. “Hopefully, as students go up the pipeline, they will become more interested in science and careers in science.”

More engaging science instruction, Vu noted, could very well be what teachers need to propel students into careers such as the ones described by NASA representatives.

“It’s really great, because science is multi-faceted,” he said. “There’s a lot of crossover, so industries partner and share the information, share the technology… and by working with NASA and HISD, we leverage a lot of resources.”

NASA hopes to introduce more space topics into the classroom by working with HISD teachers, said presenter Heather Paul, a NASA engineer.

“It’s always inspirational for us to talk to educators, because we recognize that they are the key to the future generation of space explorers,” she said. “I think back on my education and which teachers inspired me, and they weren’t always the ones I liked, but they were the ones who worked me really hard.”

The SSI finishes at the end of July, but teachers will have the opportunity to learn more from the Baylor College of Medicine with Saturday courses at various times during the school year.

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