Report from Headquarters

Space Foundation Expands Education Team to Meet School System Demand

Written by: developer

Space Foundation Expands Education Team to Meet School System Demand The Space Foundation has hired two new educators to support the continued expansion of space-related education programs for teachers and students across the nation.

Melissa Peterson and Allison Benjamin, who both serve as Space Foundation aerospace education specialists, bring solid space and science education backgrounds to their positions.

About Melissa Peterson
Peterson is responsible for developing and implementing high-school-level curriculum and education programs, including lesson plans and hands-on education programs that support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). She conducts student and teacher workshops, including the Space Foundation’s Space Discovery Institute graduate courses and the Science, Technology, and Academic Readiness for Space (STARS) student science enrichment program. Peterson also is responsible for the Space Foundation education newsletter, LaunchPad, and she works to promote space education efforts through school faculty presentations and at local, state, and national conferences including the National Space Symposium.

Prior to her position at the Space Foundation, Peterson taught science and math at Canon Elementary and West Middle School in Colorado Springs, and the Arts and Cultural Studies Academy at Manual High School in Denver. Before becoming a teacher, she served as an environmental promoter in the U.S. Peace Corps in Kingston, Jamaica. She also completed an internship as an aquatic entomologist with the Americorps Student Conservation Association in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Space Foundation inducted Peterson in the Teacher Liaison program class of 2009, Flight 6-09. She holds a bachelor’s degree in field biology with a minor in outdoor physical education from the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colo., and a master of curriculum and instruction with a science emphasis from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

About Allison Benjamin
Benjamin is working with Colorado Springs School District 11 to develop space-centered curriculum and to coordinate student and teacher programs at the new aerospace academy the district is creating in association with the Space Foundation. She is responsible for developing and implementing curriculum and education programs that support STEM education. This includes designing curriculum, developing unit and daily lesson plans, and conducting teacher and student workshops. Benjamin also acts as the liaison for curriculum development between the Space Foundation and Colorado Springs School District 11 for the new aerospace academy middle school, which is slated to open in the fall.

Prior to working for the Space Foundation, Benjamin was the director of education at Space Center Houston, the Official Visitors Center of Johnson Space Center. She directed all aspects of the education department and established and maintained the educational mission and objectives for the education staff. Programs included the Space Exploration Educator’s Conference (SEEC), several distance learning programs, educator workshops, space day camps and an International Space School engineering challenge. During her time as education director, the department won a Telly Award for Best Electronic Fieldtrip: Just Where is that Zero G Room?, the NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award for the SEEC, and the Texas Association for Partners in Education Best STEM Business Partnership award for the BP Physics Challenge. Benjamin also taught middle school science in the Houston Independent School District for five years, during which time she successfully implemented a Champions of Active Learning grant to research the ecology of Brays Bayou for seven weeks with two colleagues and 410 eighth graders, and co-founded the Johnston Community Academy (JCA), a 12- week community program funded through a Houston A+ Challenge grant to help “at-risk” students. She earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.

Space Foundation Education Program Expansion
The Space Foundation has expanded its Space Discovery Institute from nine classes in two locations to 15 classes in four locations across the country. This year, Space Discovery Institutes will held again in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Charles County, Md., and new programs launch in Omaha, Neb., for Omaha Public Schools, and, dedicated sessions in Colorado Springs for Colorado Springs School District 11.

This article is part of Space Watch: June 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 6).