NASA Year of Education on Station: Teaching from Space

Imagine being a teacher in the classroom one day, and then find yourself being a teacher astronaut in space the next. Pretty exciting! Well, that’s what happened to teachers, Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold. This school year, NASA is celebrating a Year of Education on the Station (YES) as astronauts and former teachers, Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold, make the International Space Station (ISS) their home for a year of combined time. While on board, they will make the ISS their classroom and share their love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and their passion for teaching. “It has been great to be a part of the Year of Education on Station,” Joe Acaba said. “I hope that in some way we can help to inspire the next generation of explorers and leaders, and that we can elevate and highlight the teaching profession and its importance to our society. I hope for a future where every student has the opportunity to receive a quality education, and that teachers are empowered and given the tools to make that happen.” Joe Acaba returned to Earth on Feb. 27, but he passes the “Teacher in Space” role to Ricky Arnold when he launches to the station on March 21st.

The International Space Station Year of Education on Station (ISS YES) will showcase a year-long (and beyond) education campaign aimed at providing both teachers and students with educational resources and opportunities. A few of those resources and opportunities are identified below.

STEM on Station is your connection to the International Space Station that explores how to bring space into your classroom with lesson plans, activities, opportunities, videos, still imagery and the latest station news.

STEMonstrations are educational demonstrations highlighting scientific topics aboard the ISS. Currently, there are two STEMonstrations available, with more to be added as the ISS YES continues. The first STEMonstration, Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion, features NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik demonstrating Newton’s Second Law of Motion, on the ISS, by applying a force to objects of different mass. The accompanying lesson teaches students to be able to explain Newton’s Second Law of Motion and the relationship among force, mass, and acceleration. The second STEMonstration, Exercise, features NASA astronaut Joe Acaba stressing the importance of exercising in orbit and explores the science behind what happens to bones and muscles in microgravity. The accompanying lesson teaches students to identify the effects of decreased bone mass and describe why healthy bones are important in space and on Earth.

ISS Downlinks connect your students with astronauts aboard the space station for a live question-and-answer session about living and working in space. In-flight Education Downlinks allow students and educators to engage in a 20-minute live conversation with astronauts onboard the space station. Students are able to see and hear the crew (the crew only hears the students). These special events are broadcast live on NASA Television. The opportunity to host a downlink is competitive and interested educational organizations (U.S. only) must submit an application.

Christa McAuliff’s Lost Lessons were lessons to be used as a part of several educational packages that would be distributed after McAullife’s mission on the space shuttle Challenger mission in 1986. Thirty years after the Challenger accident, Joe Acaba announced that he and Ricky Arnold would film the educational videos that McAuliffe originally had planned to bring to children worldwide as part of the ISS YES.

“I am honored to help celebrate the legacy of #Challenger and #TeacherinSpace,” Ricky Arnold said in a tweet. “Thank you to our teaching colleagues and many others for keeping the dream alive.”

In the inspiring words of Christa McAuliffe, “I touch the future. I teach.”

These are only just a few of the ISS YES resources and opportunities available for educators and students. You can also visit Get Involved with Station to experience and participate in these, and additional, unique and exciting ways to be a part of the ISS YES teaching from space.

Steve Culivan
Educator Professional Development Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
NASA Stennis Space Center