FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 13, 2007
With teacher aboard, space shuttle is an orbiting classroom
Stimulate a discussion about the level of interest among students and the public in America's space program. Do class members think media coverage generally is inadequate, about right or too heavy?
Last week's launch and the role of a teacher-astronaut stimulated heavy attention from newspapers. Ask students to see what room and prominence is given this week to the mission, which is the 22nd time a shuttle has docked at the space station and the 119th shuttle trip since 1977. Invite comments on Barbara Morgan's value in generating news reports.
Some newspapers' coverage includes reactions from local schools and links to online pictures or video from space. Invite pupils to check this paper's print edition or web site for extra material on the Americans in obit.
This is the first lesson elementary teacher Barbara Morgan taught from 140 miles above Earth: All good things are worth the wait. After 22 years of training and waiting, she’s conducting lesson plans from space aboard the shuttle Endeavour, docked at the International Space Station on a mission scheduled to last at least through Sunday.
Morgan applied for NASA’s Teacher in Space program more than two decades ago and made it to the No. 2 spot in a national search. The mother from McCall, Idaho, (population 2,000) was picked in 1985 as Christa McAuliffe's backup to be the first teacher-astronaut. They trained together and Morgan was at the Kennedy Space Center a year later when the New Hampshire teacher and six crewmates died as the shuttle Challenger broke apart just after liftoff.
In orbit, she’s speaking to schoolchildren during three 20-minute sessions that are broadcast live around the world. Morgan also conducts other educational activities, shares in crew duties and operates a robotic arm that moves 5,000 pounds of cargo from the shuttle to the space station. "We could not do this flight if we had a person as a crew member who was just dedicated to education," said shuttle commander Scott Kelly. "Barbara is a fully functioning member of the crew and we need her to do space shuttle stuff."
Morgan says: "I believe in my heart that space exploration is key for all of us -- especially for our young people. As a classroom teacher, I can't think of anything more important than our young people and keeping their opportunities for the future open."
Space program opens up: Astronauts originally were military test pilots, but NASA began including scientists and engineers during the Apollo program in the late 1960s. Three teachers joined the astronaut ranks after Morgan, and the space agency’s four-year-old Explorer School program provides technology tools and materials to help teachers spark interest in science and technology.
NASA says: "Teaching is not limited to a certain segment of time. Everything she does up there has teachable moments." -- Ed Pritchard, teaching-from-space program manager
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