Recently while participating in a weekly #edchat discussion on Twitter (every Tuesday at 7PM EST), I happened into connecting with Dr. Jeff Goldstein (@doctorjeff). Dr. Goldstein is the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, and Program Director for the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program. As such, Dr. Goldstein informed me of an opportunity that was out of this world. If a school community participates in the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP), one group of students from that community will have their experiment tested on the International Space Station.
I was hooked immediately. After winter holiday, I talked with Dr. Goldstein, and he walked my colleague (Mr. Eric Daney- @EricDaney) through the implementation process. Dr. Goldstein could not have been more helpful. Eric and I couldn’t have done more excited fist-pumps and silent “WOWs” during the phone meeting. Immediately we set to work to plan how the DASD STEM Academy could implement such a cool program. The process wasn’t easy. We wrestled with questions like whether we could really get students to complete a 40 hour research design process in a nine-week period, to compete for the spot on the International Space Station, without overwhelming the students. We did not know whether we would get the approval from administration or the buy-in from teachers. We did not know if we could help fund the $21,500 to run the program. We did not give up, though. As our school’s headmaster Mr. Art Campbell (@DASD_STEM) said, if we pass on this opportunity, we would always wonder if it were possible. So, we moved forward, and I think I can confidently say that in October 2013, we will send a student experiment into space!
At a point in the process, Eric and I were really unsettled with the magnitude of the program. We kept moving. Several teachers, like Headmaster Campbell, reminded us how big an opportunity this was to pass. When Mission 4 to the International Space Station launches, the DASD STEM Academy will be one of perhaps only 80 K-12 school communities to have taken part in this program.
If you see an opportunity for your students, no matter how big, never pass them up. Yes, you might fail in succeeding, but failure is part of the learning. If you succeed, you bring big ideas and authentic learning into the classroom. Either way, you win.
Once the DASD STEM Academy is officially recognized in the program, we will have an official community blog. I will keep updates here until that blog is set up. I am excited to share updates and student reports as the program unfolds.