NASA Interacts with Thousands of Science Teachers

Volume 14, Number 3, June 1998
by James Thieman

Several NSSDC personnel were very involved in the NASA exhibit at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) meeting held April 16-19, 1998, in Las Vegas, Nevada. James Thieman and Sten Odenwald joined a cast of many others from Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Headquarters, and other NASA centers to help design and implement a new NASA exhibit for the meeting. The NASA Office of Space Science (OSS) based its part of the exhibit on the four main science themes: the Sun-Earth Connection, Structure and Evolution of the Universe, Solar System Exploration, and the Astronomical Search for the Origins of Life and Planetary Systems. The Sun-Earth Connection Education Forum (SECEF) had a lead role in the development of the Sun-Earth Connection (SEC) part of the exhibit. SECEF, a partnership between GSFC and the University of California Space Sciences Laboratory, is managed at GSFC from within the NSSDC.

The OSS exhibit was spread out over 900 square feet of the exhibit hall but was still only a part of the overall NASA exhibit, which included the Earth Sciences enterprise, the Office of Education, etc. NASA traditionally has been the largest exhibitor at the NSTA national conferences, and the relationship has been beneficial for both NASA and NSTA. The meeting in Las Vegas was the largest ever for NSTA with over 16,000 teachers in attendance. In addition, there were approximately 3,000 people there as exhibitors.

The exhibit area was two to three football fields in size. Even so, NASA was still by far the most popular exhibit. From the time the exhibit area opened there was a constant line of teachers waiting to receive free handout materials from NASA, especially from the OSS part of the exhibit. Only on the final day when there were few materials left to distribute did the lines diminish. The teachers constantly expressed their gratitude for the materials and stated that they use them all the time in the classroom. It was clear that the meeting represented the kind of high leverage activity that NASA seeks in which a limited amount of resources can be used to make an impact on a large audience.

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Editor:Miranda Beall
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