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North Tama students host NASA scientist

October 4, 2012
Traer Star-Clipper

North Tama fifth and sixth grade students recently had the unique and exciting opportunity to host Susan Mayo, a NASA scientist and education specialist from the International Space Station Program Science Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Mayo planned her visit for two important reasons: education outreach and teacher feedback.

"The International Space Station Program Science Office in collaboration with the National Lab and Teaching From Space piloted a 5th 12th grade program titled 'ISS Science Challenge' during the 2011-2012 school year. Lisa Chizek, NASA Endeavor Science Teaching Certificate Project Fellow and North Tama educator, was instrumental in developing the ISS Science Challenge and participated in piloting the new program last year," stated Mayo. "Receiving teacher feedback is essential to ensuring the success of the program. I was fortunate to be allowed to debrief Mrs. Chizek about the project here at North Tama."

Last spring Chizek's fifth and sixth grade science students helped pilot the educational project connecting the NASA sponsored science investigations done on the International Space Station (ISS) with literacy projects. The ISS Science Challenge was the project that Chizek helped develop during an internship at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Article Photos

Above, sixth grade students Molly Kvidera, Hope Brubaker, Hale Hulme, Chance Hulme and Carter Pokorny work with NASA scientist and education specialist Susan Mayo and teacher Lisa Chizek to investigate the differences in how toys work on Earth and how they work in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. At top, the kids participate in more fun activities during the visit.

"Students, working in groups, took the information from an ISS science experiment fact sheet, figured out what the experiment was all about, summarized it in their own words and then worked to create some amazing projects to teach the world about the experiment." Chizek shared. "The students were fascinated while learning all about the unique microgravity environment on the ISS. Students also used a lot of higher level thinking as they had fun creating their projects. Some groups developed audio broadcasts. Some students created skits with LEGO characters which were videoed. Other students created PowerPoint presentations. Rap songs were also enthusiastically written."

When asked for his opinion about participating in the ISS Science Challenge, sixth grade student Parker Hulme said, "It was really fun because we got to make a video about science in space!"

The students' projects were then submitted to NASA to be evaluated for content and scientific accuracy. Any submissions which earned a high enough score on the evaluation will have the honor of being posted with the experiment fact sheet on the NASA website. North Tama students are excitedly waiting to hear the results that should be announced in a few weeks.

While on her three-day visit to North Tama, Mayo also worked with Chizek and her students on an inquiry-based lab, 'International Toys in Space.' Students had the opportunity to work with a variety of international toys to see how they worked on Earth and then use their knowledge of microgravity to predict how they would work in space. After making and sharing their predictions, students were able to watch videos of astronauts playing with the toys on the International Space Station to see how they actually did work in space.

Sixth grade student Hope Brubaker found the toy investigation very engaging, "I thought it was fun to see the differences in the way the toys worked on Earth and how they worked in space!"

Asked why learning about the International Space Station is important Mayo replied, "Learning about the ISS is an essential part of educating our students for the future. The International Space Station is a testament to what can be accomplished when countries from all over the planet collaborate and work together. The ISS was built by 5 partner agencies over a 10-year period with over 100 missions to assemble. The ISS is a laboratory for microgravity research that cannot be conducted here on Earth. Gravity is a constant force here on Earth and it has the ability to dominate and mask other forces. By removing gravity, we are able to better understand fundamental science here on Earth. Research on the ISS includes the areas of Physical and Material Sciences, Biology and Biotechnology, Human Research, Earth and Space Sciences, robotics, Communication and Ground Control, Transportation, and Technology. Scientists on the ISS continue to learn all kinds of things that are very beneficial to us here on Earth, and they are also gaining knowledge necessary to further research and travel in space. While some students are not even aware that there is an ISS, others have experiments currently onboard the ISS. The ISS has the unique ability to engage students and inspire them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Research taking place today on the ISS will impact and benefit the lives of today's students.

Mayo enjoyed her visit to North Tama and was inspired by the students' curiosity. "While at North Tama, I was able to visit and work with all of the students in grades K-6. I was constantly amazed by the depth and diversity of questions that students asked. Their energy and enthusiasm recharged my batteries and reminded me that what I do directly benefits our children's education and future."



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