NASA Summer Institutes for Educators

Invest in Yourself

How can you as an educator invest in yourself professionally with NASA?

There are many opportunities to invest in your own professional development with NASA education and one of the best sources for learning about those opportunities is found here.

You will find that there are summer workshops and webinars onsite at NASA centers and online via the internet for all educators, whether informal or formal, in-service or pre-service, and for all grades levels. To sign up and receive announcements about NASA’s education programs, activities and events, you need only click here and subscribe to the NASA Express Email Messaging Service.

Since there are so many opportunities available to you and only so much space for me to write about them, I’ve decide to highlight one summer opportunity for middle grades educators known as the “Educator Professional Development Institutes at NASA Johnson Space Center.”

NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) Educator Professional Development Institutes (EPDI) target middle school educators for online interactions and a weeklong grade level specific face-to-face training incorporating NASA education curriculum in a train-the trainer format, subject matter expert presentations from NASA scientists and engineers, and tours of NASA unique facilities.

All activities align NASA’s current missions and education resources to state and national standards for teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in middle school classrooms.  Each institute is designed to engage participants in content they are responsible for teaching at grade level according to their national or state-specific standards. Presenters at the institute will model best practices for teaching by incorporating research-based strategies for teaching like the use of the 5E method of lesson planning, PBL, inquiry-based activities, and culturally responsive teaching methods.

EPDI 2016 will be the second year of this grade-level specific workshop and as such, it is important to consider what the past participants thought about the first year of EPDI.

One 6th grade teacher attending the 2015 EPDI remarked, “It has given me so many lessons that I plan to use in my classroom. It has also inspired me to seek out other opportunities like this one at NASA and other places because it was such a positive and useful experience. Honestly, in ten years of teaching, it was the best professional development I have ever attended.”

Our participants last year represented 27 school districts from Texas, Arkansas, and Washington, D.C., but educators from anywhere in the U.S. are eligible to apply in 2016.

When asked if the participants would recommend future EPDI’s to other educators, a 7th grade teacher responded, “This workshop provided excellent hands-on activities and a wealth of exposure to NASA programs which has sparked an interest I did not have prior. The group collaboration, guest speakers and facilitators demonstrated expertise and were very engaging. The workshop also presented situations from assignments that were challenging and pushed many in my group beyond our comfort zone; yet proved rewarding afterwards giving me a great feeling of accomplishment.”

CPE & Stipend for the 2016 EPDI

For the 2016 EPDI, NASA will provide a $450 stipend and a certificate showing 50 hours of Continuing Professional Education hours to each participant that successfully complete the online and on-site components of the institute.  Each participant must provide their own transportation and lodging, completion of the online assignments, participation in the online community before, during and after the institutes and compliance with the rules governing their participation in the online community and onsite at NASA Johnson Space Center.

The application is open from March 1, 2016 – April 29, 2016.  All questions about EPDI 2016 can be directed to For more information and to apply, please go to: Follow the action on social media using the hashtag ‪#‎NASAEPDI.

Why attend NASA professional development opportunities?

There are many reasons, but consider these my favorites. An inspired and engaged teacher will inspire and engage students and there are few ways to get more engaged in STEM topics than with NASA and space exploration. Lastly, I would note that many of us working as NASA education specialists and in other positions across the agency today and over the years were once classroom teachers attending NASA professional development opportunities like this one. So just consider, there may be a place at NASA for you.

Brandon M. Hargis
Education Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center