New Horizons Program Reaches Students, Teachers in Fairbanks, Alaska

Written by: developer

Thanks to generous local supporters, the Space Foundation brought our New Horizons community program to Fairbanks, Alaska, Feb. 13-18, with classroom sessions and assemblies at schools, teacher professional development, community events, receptions and lots of media coverage.

Coordinated by Marci Ward, a third-grade teacher at Fairbanks’ Immaculate Conception Grade School and a member of the Space Foundation’s prestigious Teacher Liaison group, the New Horizons event is part of the Space Foundation’s education initiative that uses space themes to advance science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and to bring communities together. The Space Foundation team in Fairbanks included Vice President-Marketing and Communications Janet Stevens and Space Education Specialists Bobby Gagnon (pictured, above right, in a photo courtesy of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner) and Elias Molen.

Education Events include Classroom Sessions, Assemblies and Teacher Training
The core of the six-day event was a series of space-themed science presentations at ten local schools. Through a combination of small classroom sessions and large assemblies, Space Education Specialists Gagnon and Molen taught classes on the effects of microgravity, the planets in our solar system, the Kepler mission and its search for planets throughout the universe, life aboard the International Space Station (including a chance to taste astronaut food), Mars and Mars exploration, “build an alien” lessons that address physical influences on biological lifeforms, space careers and a wide variety of exercises that demonstrate phenomena such as how space telescope detect planets, how planets rotate and how rovers explore planetary surfaces. In all, Gagnon and Molen, taught almost 1,500 students, ranging from 2nd to 12th grade.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District public schools visited were Anne Wien Elementary School, Arctic Light Elementary School on Fort Wainwright Army Base, Ben Eielson Junior-Senior High School and Crawford Elementary School on Eielson Air Force Base, Hunter Elementary School, Joy Elementary School, Ladd Elementary School, North Pole Elementary School and Woodriver Elementary School. In addition, the Space Foundation team spent a full day at Immaculate Conception Grade School and Monroe Catholic High School with classes, assemblies and a presentation to the Science Club. Pictured, above left, is Marci Ward’s 3rd grade class at Immaculate Conception. Pictured right, Molen teaches a class at Ben Eielson Junior-Senior High School.

Teachers Learn to Use Space in the Classroom
On Saturday, Feb. 18, Gagnon and Molen conducted two teacher professional development sessions for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. The Space Across the Curriculum workshops, based on the Space Foundation’s more intense week-long Space Across the Curriculum courses, introduced elementary school teachers to astronomy and planetary sciences and junior/senior high school teachers to space technologies, including nanotechnologies. The courses provided teachers with hands-on lessons and activities that they could immediately teach in their classrooms. The training was provided in conjunction with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Pictured, above right, teachers participate in a kinesthetic astronomy exercise where they “experience” earth’s rotation,

Public Events, Media Introduce Community to Space Foundation Programs
During the week, the Space Foundation also participated in a number of public and media events, including a community forum at the Noel Wien Public Library, a table at the Science for Alaska public lecture series, a parent/community reception at Immaculate Conception/Monroe Catholic High School, presentations to both the Chena Kiwanis and the Fairbanks Kiwanis Club and media coverage by the local NBC and CBS television stations and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper. In addition, the Space Foundation team toured the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) nanotechnology lab as the guests of Drs. Shiva and Nulima Hullavarad, who are both research assistant professors – Advanced Materials Group at the UAF Institute of Northern Engineering.

Sponsors Include Industry, School District and Citizens
The Space Foundation New Horizons program was made possible by a number of local Fairbanks sponsors, including primary supporters Pogo Mine and Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Supporting sponsors included: Denali State Bank, Fairbanks Kiwanis Club, Chena Kiwanis Club, Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, The Optimist Club, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Vend Alaska, Mike Helmbrecht, DDS, Fountainhead Hotels, Marci Ward, Becky Anderson, Ted and Gina Hoppner, Grace Minder, Mary Ellen Koehller, Mike Stepovich and Sonia Younkers. In addition, Space Foundation Space CertificationTM partner Eagle Eyes Optics donated sunglasses featuring space technology lenses for demonstrations and prizes. Pictured, left, Stevens, Gagnon, sponsor Chris Kennedy of Pogo Mines, Jane Kennedy, Molen and sponsor Teacher Liaison Marci Ward.

For photos of the week-long event, click here.

This article is part of Space Watch: March 2012 (Volume: 11, Issue: 3).