Asheville teacher selected for NASA space education ambassadors program

Press release from NC Space Grant:

An Asheville City Schools science teacher, Gretchen Ross of Montford North Star Academy, has been selected to participate in a brand-new STEM training opportunity from NC Space Grant, offered in collaboration with NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, the NASA Office of STEM Engagement and other NASA centers.

Ross is one of 15 teachers selected as the first cohort of the North Carolina Space Education Ambassadors (NCSEA) program. The goal of the NCSEA program is to build a statewide network of master teachers who deliver NASA educational content to their local students, schools and communities.

“I am most excited about the opportunity to build my STEM units arsenal to bring back to the classroom,” Ross said. “Sharing this experience with secondary science teaching in my district will be an honor.”

NC Space Grant is partnering with NASA education specialists from NASA Langley and other NASA field centers to provide each NCSEA cohort with intensive professional development in current NASA Next Gen STEM education themes. The teachers will participate in professional development modules and earn NASA digital badges. One highlight of the program will be the trip to NASA Langley the teachers take together as a cohort, to tour the facilities and learn from NASA scientists, engineers and education specialists in person.

After their initial training, NCSEA educators will work as a cohort over the next academic year to align existing NASA materials with the N.C. Standard Course of Study and develop lesson plans and activities to supplement the Next Gen STEM themes. Finally, they will spread those resources via outreach events or workshops to other educators in their schools, districts or even across the state.

Gina Blystone, an education program specialist in the Office of STEM Engagement at NASA Langley, speaks of the need for programs like NCSEA.

“Many educators are not familiar with NASA missions and don’t understand how to teach content with a NASA mission focus,” she says. “Or, they don’t feel confident enough with their understanding of NASA missions to do so. Programs like these give them what they need to incorporate the work NASA does into their daily lessons.”

Blystone points out NCSEA teachers will be able to develop a network of contacts across multiple NASA centers. She hopes they will build relationships with these NASA experts and reach out to them for further support throughout their careers. She also stresses that opportunities like NCSEA help teachers feel confident, supported in the classroom and better able to offer STEM experiences to their students, whether or not those experiences relate to NASA missions.

Jobi Cook, the associate director of NC Space Grant, adds, “We hope to equip teachers with NASA tools and resources they can use in their respective communities to inspire future explorers right here in North Carolina. By making an investment in educators, we are able to touch so many more of the next generation of STEM leaders and professionals in the state.”

Ultimately, Blystone says, “this is an investment in the Artemis generation, the next generation of NASA employees, the next generation of explorers with expertise in STEM careers whose research and work will benefit humankind.”

NC Space Grant is a NASA-funded organization tasked with developing the STEM workforce in North Carolina. NC Space Grant is part of the National Space Grant College Program and is a federal-state partnership housed at North Carolina State University.

Read the full story and bios of all 15 North Carolina Space Education Ambassadors on our site

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