On August 21, 2017, the NASA STEM EPDC offices at Texas State University were buzzing with activity in anticipation of a STEM education event: Solar Eclipse day! Millions across the country looked into the sky to see for themselves this incredible wonder. Thousands of educators and students were excited and motivated to see the phenomenon they had been learning about through the many webinars, lesson plans and hands on workshops delivered by the NASA STEM EPDC Specialists across the U.S.There may not be an eclipse every day, but the technological innovations and unique educational resources offered by NASA motivate and inform educators and students every day! In year 3, NASA STEM EPDC conducted more than 600 professional development events serving more than 30,000 educators, assisting them in earning close to 14,000 learning badges through NASA STEM EPDC Digital Badging.
Looking to the future, it is critical to be clear about the importance of educator professional development. NASA and MUREP (the Minority University Research and Education Partnership) hold a distinguished role in helping schools and educators to prepare a STEM workforce with representation from the diverse populations found in our public schools. The STEM workforce pipeline does not originate in colleges and universities; early in their K-12 experiences, students develop academic interests and skills that will lead them into their fields of study in college and ultimately into career selections. Schools and teachers are the best avenue through which to provide opportunities to all students, especially those who are economically disadvantaged and from groups that have historically been under-represented in STEM.
NASA has made a substantial investment in the development of high-quality classroom resources, yet without a continuing, deliberate focus on educator professional development, many educators will be unaware of these resources, and resources will be under-utilized. Because of its unique assets and resources, NASA is in a prime position to introduce educators, and in turn students, to the importance of space exploration. Through utilizing NASA’s unique assets and resources, combined with a commitment to educator professional development, the U.S. will achieve the vibrant and highly-diverse STEM workforce needed to be on the leading edge of scientific innovation and space exploration.
The LBJ Institute for STEM Education and Research at Texas State University and the NASA STEM EDPC are honored to be a part of this crucial work, and it is with great enthusiasm that we launch into the fourth year of this critically important mission.
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