Teachers Dedicated to Educating, Inspiring Artemis Generation of Explorers to Reach New Heights
By Space Coast Daily // May 10, 2020
Teacher Appreciation Week, celebrated from May 4 to 8 this year, looked a little different
(NASA) – Teacher Appreciation Week, celebrated from May 4 to 8 this year, looked a little different. Despite the shift to virtual learning, teachers and educators remained just as dedicated to educating and inspiring the next generation of explorers — the Artemis Generation — to reach new heights.
On May 6, NASA celebrated teachers across the nation, and some had the opportunity to speak with NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, who is currently living aboard the International Space Station.
Teachers from Space Center Houston’s international network of educators and the Space Exploration Educator Crew submitted their questions for Cassidy on behalf of their schools and students.
One of the educators selected to participate was Becky Busby, an elementary education teacher for gifted students in grades K-5 at Frank Long Elementary School in Hinesville, Georgia.
Busby has worked as an educator for 21 years; attended the Space Exploration Educators Conference, or SEEC, for the last four years; and, in 2018, teamed up with NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold to host a downlink during the Year of Education on Station.
“As a 21-year veteran teacher, it’s easy to think my best years of teaching have passed,” Busby said.
“But since I have connected with NASA and educators through the SEEC conference and crew program, my best years of teaching are just beginning. I am constantly inspired by other teachers that push beyond textbooks and make learning meaningful and fun. Now more than ever before, we have to reach our students by captivating our audience.”
As a teacher and a parent, Busby says virtual learning has not been easy; however, it has allowed her the opportunity to reinvent herself as a teacher and a student, participating in classes through NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for Solar System Ambassadors, a program supporting educators with outreach opportunities and resources.
As for her students, Busby says they have been keeping busy through daily lessons on creativity, math challenges, STEM games and virtual field trips, with her fourth-grade class continuing their year-long space unit virtually using a variety of NASA STEM resources.
Their current focus is NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is currently preparing to launch astronauts from American soil for the first time in almost 10 years on May 27.
“My students feed off of my energy and enthusiasm, and I have to constantly bring the best Mrs. Busby I can bring to my classroom,” Busby said.
“Now that my classroom is from my living room, I have to bring even more enthusiasm and joy to my lessons. I have to lift up my students and make them eager to spend that hour learning and growing with me.”
Courtney Black, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Allen Park Elementary School in Fort Myers, Florida, presented at last year’s SEEC and was selected to participate in the educator downlink.
Black started her teaching journey 13 years ago and is a member of the Space Exploration Educator Crew, teacher liaison at the Space Foundation and a Solar System ambassador for JPL
Black has spent the last couple of months virtually connecting with her students while homeschooling her own two kids. But just because they are not meeting in person does not mean she cannot bring her students together.
An avid user of NASA resources in her curriculum, especially STEMonstrations, Black is always looking for ways to tie space exploration to her lessons.
Later this month, she plans to incorporate the Commercial Crew launch into her lesson plans using NASA STEM @ Home for Students activities, introduced by NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement in March 2020.
The activities, broken down into grade levels, are designed as a one-stop-shop for the NASA STEM needs of parents, students, families and teachers.
In addition to their virtual assignments, Black strongly encouraged her students to tune in to the educator downlink.
“Anytime there is an opportunity to shine a light space education or STEM careers, if it has the opportunity to impact students, then it is something I want to go for,” Black said.
“My students are my constant source of inspiration. If I can provide a little of that inspiration back to them by putting in a little extra work, then I’m more than happy to.”
Black collaborated with one of her students, Luana Vertelo, to formulate two questions to ask Cassidy during the downlink: “Did your parents support you in your decision to become an astronaut?” and “Looking forward to the Artemis missions, what skills or character traits do you believe will be essential for those individuals tasked with exploring and inhabiting the Moon?”
Cassidy answered the latter during the broadcast, stating that “teamwork” was the most important skill an astronaut could possess.
Black’s goal is to keep her team of students learning during this time, even beyond the walls of the classroom.
Her hope is that the students will take the initiative to explore the world around them, whether that means taking in nature in their own backyard or tuning into a downlink with an astronaut, and that those discoveries will stick with them upon their return to the classroom.
“Watching these kids build bridges in their minds through knowledge and experiences, it’s that ‘ah-ha’ moment,” Black said.
“Really, we’re [with them] one year, and some of these kids I will take in my heart for the rest of my life, and they’ll take me in theirs. Just that privilege of being a part of their education journey is the best reward I could possibly think of.”
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