On June 4, 2018, NASA AMES Research Center (ARC) security guards took extra time checking in visitors. This time instead of a quick flash of the badge of one or two people in a vehicle, security guards had to step onto a large bus and give clearance to over 50 Educators participating in the MUREP Educator Institutes (MEI) second annual event. Participants represented the University of California, University of Nevada, University of Montana, Nevada State College, Notre Dame of Namur University, Chaminade University of Honolulu, and Brandman University. MEI is a week-long event led by Dr. Karen Roark, a NASA Education Specialist. MEI was formed from a partnership of NASA STEM Educator Professional Development Collaborative (EPDC) and NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).
This once in a lifetime event for many of the participants was filled with tours of a working facility such as the super computer and a robotic tour. Guest speakers included Center Director, Dr. Eugene L. Tu who graciously welcomed the group with a complete history of AMES and insight into the valuable work AMES conducts. Other guest speakers included NASA Engineer and Deputy Project Manager, Ali Guarneros Luna who shared her story of perseverance and current work on technology to better control of orbiting satellites and experts of Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOPHIA) sharing information such as SOPHIA is the largest airborne observatory in the world giving us observations that are impossible for ground-based telescopes.
Throughout the weeklong experience, MEI participants engaged in several NASA activities as they received Globe training and participated in activities that required them to go through the Engineering Design Process appropriate for Elementary and Middle School educators. Several activities were designed to explore the importance of culture in STEM education, develop a deeper understanding of personal beliefs and examine sociocultural forces that impact student learning and engagement. The process of engagement included personal and collective reflection, inquiry, and dialogue. Participants read an article by MSI Ten faculty member, Dr. Danny Martin, that explored the concept of race and its impact in mathematics education. MEI attendees critically reflected on the role of race and culture and engaged in dialogical exchanges that generated thoughtful commentary and analysis. The participants were also provided thought provoking case studies that centered on issues of power, equity, and access in the classroom. This activity stimulated collective inquiry and rich dialogue through which participants shared ideas and conceptualized practical, culturally responsive strategies to effectively engage culturally, linguistically, and ethnically diverse students.
As the week came to an end participants left excited about the upcoming school year. They were ready to share NASA activities with their students, promised to stay in touch and hoped to get another opportunity to return to NASA AMES Center soon.
Sara Garcia-Torres and Samuel Garcia
Educator Professional Development Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
Texas State University