High school science teachers will fly on SOFIA

The SETI Institute partnered with 14 school districts in eight states for the 2019 NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) program. The AAA program is a professional development opportunity for high school science teachers designed to improve science teaching and learning and increase student engagement in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM).

Participating teachers receive training in astrophysics and planetary science, content and pedagogy. Their training includes a week-long immersion experience at NASA’s Flight Research Center Hangar 703 in Palmdale, California, with participation in research flights aboard NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The program culminates in classroom delivery of a SOFIA science-oriented curriculum module. Impact on student STEM learning and engagement will be measured by WestEd education evaluators.

“SOFIA provides a fantastic opportunity for teachers to better understand and appreciate the research process by interacting with scientists and mission crew members,” said Dr. Dana Backman, AAA program principal investigator. “The teachers can then take what they learn back to their classrooms, schools, and school districts, conveying the value of scientific research and adding real-world content to high school learning environments. The first-hand experiences also can illuminate the wide variety of STEM career paths available to students.”

The school districts participating in the 2019 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program are:

  • Anaheim Union High School District, California
  • Clark County School District, Nevada
  • Cobb County Schools, Georgia
  • Fayette County Public Schools, Kentucky
  • Harmony Public Schools, Texas
  • Manteca Unified School District, California
  • Muscogee County School District, Georgia
  • Norman Public School District, Oklahoma
  • Northside Independent School District (San Antonio), Texas
  • Santa Ana Unified School District, California
  • School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties, South Carolina
  • Washoe County School District, Nevada
  • William S. Hart Union High School District, California

The 28 teachers selected from partner districts as 2019 Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors are listed below:

  • Berkil Alexander, Kennesaw Mountain High School, Kennesaw, Georgia
  • Heidi Anderson, Locust Trace AgriScience Center, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Kathryn Baugher, Norman North High School, Norman, Oklahoma
  • Nikki Bisesi, Hillgrove High School, Powder Springs, Georgia
  • Stephanie Brady, Norman High School, Norman, Oklahoma
  • Daniel Burleson, Rancho High School, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Melissa Conway, Spring Hill High School, Chapin, South Carolina
  • Clay Elliott, Oxford Academy, Anaheim, Cypress, California
  • Anna Estep, Chapin High School, Chapin, South Carolina
  • Joshua Gagnier, Santa Ana High School, Santa Ana, California
  • Sandra Hightower, Century High School, Santa Ana, California
  • Lauren Malik, William Howard Taft High School, San Antonio, Texas
  • Terrence Martin, William Howard Taft High School, San Antonio, Texas
  • Philip Matthews, Kennesaw Mountain High School, Kennesaw, Georgia
  • Dawn Minnick-Trujillo, Las Vegas Academy of the Arts, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Kim Nguyen, Oxford Academy, Anaheim, California
  • Melissa Pagonis, John Paul Stevens High School, San Antonio, Texas
  • Luther Richardson, Columbus High School, Columbus, Georgia
  • Ashley Rosen, STEAM Academy, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Anne Schnabel, Tom C. Clark High School, San Antonio, Texas
  • Aaron Shoolroy, Reno High School, Reno, Nevada
  • Kathryn Smith, William S. Hart High School, Santa Clarita, California
  • Megan Smith, Lathrop High School, Manteca, California
  • Mickey Smith, Earl Wooster High School, Reno, Nevada
  • Laura Solomons, Columbus High School, Columbus, Georgia
  • Season Stalcup, Wheeler High School, Marietta, Georgia
  • Tyler Thompson, West Career and Technical Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Kevin Warren, Norman North High School, Norman, Oklahoma

The NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassador Program is managed by the SETI Institute. It was one of the 27 organizations from across the United States selected by NASA for cooperative agreement awards to implement a new strategic approach to more effectively engage learners of all ages on NASA science education programs and activities. Selections were made by the agency’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington, DC, through the Science Education Cooperative Agreement Notice. Selectee activities will support Earth science, astrophysics, planetary science and heliophysics. The AAA program is funded by NASA SMD NNX16AC51A.

SOFIA is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Hangar 703, in Palmdale, California.

This article was released by NASA.

Editor’s Note: The original release incorrectly identified Oxford Academy as located in Anaheim. This has been corrected to reflect its location in Cypress.