Submitted by: Gifted and Talented Teacher Lynne M. Triantos
Woodruff School, Seabrook, NJ
"I have been using the Space Explorers programs for three years as part of the district's middle school Gifted and Talented curriculum. My students have participated in three different programs: Marslink®, Moonlink® and Orbital Laboratory®. As a teacher I believe these hands-on educational science programs are truly extraordinary and "out of this world."
From the weekly Marslink®/Moonlink® lessons I presented to give my students a better understanding of space exploration to the actual simulation via the Internet, my students were very excited and motivated about participating in these unique projects. As their teacher I was thrilled seeing them eager to learn and take part in all the activities with enthusiasm. As an added twist to the project (since my students tended to be very competitive), I asked them to write a 100-word persuasive essay as to why they should be considered for a specific simulation position for the Marslink®/Moonlink® programs. I believed this was more effective than assigning positions to my students. The outcome was positive and the students enjoyed the challenge of vying for the "important" positions.
Parents, administrators, and the media were invited to both simulations, and I heard nothing but positive comments about the programs. The students were featured in the newspapers, giving district positive publicity. They really liked being in the spotlight.
Incidentally, one of my students was not very interested in space but because of Marslink® and the variety of hands-on activities (especially the simulation) she said afterwards that she really enjoyed the experience of learning about the Red Planet.
The Orbital Laboratory® experiment Payload 003: Cultivating our Future was another program my students enjoyed. While they learned about plant biology and collecting data, a valuable lesson they learned was persistence. They quickly realized that sometimes science experiments don't always go as planned and being flexible is essential. The first set of seeds they planted seemed to be growing very well, but when the blizzard in February 2003 dumped almost two feet of snow in South Jersey, the plants died because we were not in school and could not water and take care of the plants. We started the experiment two more times, but we didn't have much luck. The company sent us new materials and seeds and the students planted them for the fourth time. Unfortunately, we didn't see the project to its completion because the school year ended. Nevertheless, my students enjoyed collecting the data and comparing the growth of their plants with other students' plants across the country.
All three programs taught my students the importance of teamwork. These programs gave them a chance to broaden their horizons and apply what they learned in the classroom to real world situations. It was also a good opportunity to incorporate technology in the classroom and involve the students from Day 1.
Since I have had much success implementing the programs, I decided to feature the Space Explorers programs for a graduate school class project this past summer. My project included a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation. Feedback from my classmates and instructor was positive, and many wanted to know how teachers in their school could get involved.
I only hope more teachers will get on board to experience the excitement and educational benefits of these challenging, hands-on programs Space Explorers offers for students of all ages."
Click here to view an article published in the Bridgeton News