Education majors participate in NASA STEM workshop

Education connection
Education connection: The University’s education majors participate in the workshop to help them become more comfortable with teaching math and science concepts to their future students.

By Rachel Scott, Chattanooga, TN–A group of UTC education majors recently had the opportunity to take part in the National Aeronautics and Space Exploration (NASA) science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workshop Sept. 28.

Dr. Deborah McAllister, UC Foundation professor, said that an official at the Marshall Space Flight Center for Educational Workshops suggested the program to University officials.

She said the STEM workshop is very important to increasing the students’ knowledge about math and science, as well as their ability to better teach it to their future students.

The teacher workshop lasted from 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and was offered to pre-kindergarten through third grade education majors.

The day began with Amy McDowell, NASA MSFC Education Specialist, giving the students an overview of the day’s agenda. She later led three portions of the workshop—Free and Easy-to-Access NASA Educational Materials and Resources at, NASA’s BEST Students, as well as group discussion, evaluations, and closing.

During her time with the students, McDowell challenged their engineering skills by having them construct a lunar vehicle, or moon buggy, McAllister said.

“It was built from junk such as screw off bottle caps with skewers through them for wheels,” she said. “The workshop was a hands-on, a teamwork based experience that allowed students to learn together interactively by discussing what they were doing and why the processes and results were one way or another.”

Later in the day, John Weis, NASA Aerospace Education Services Project, taught a segment called Space Physics where students learned activities for children covering topics such as Newton’s Laws of Motion and the Solar System.

Marilyn Lewis, NASA MSFC Education Specialist, also presented an introduction and overview to the Pre-Service Teacher Institute, in which she talked to students about programs for adult learning, such as space camp.

All of the students who participated in the workshop are enrolled in the Professional Development School I (PDS I) Program, McAllister said.

The school program is a hands-on program that allows education majors who have been approved to spend a semester helping out a teacher in one of three Hamilton County public schools—Battle Academy, Brown Academy, and Normal Park.

Students are placed in one of the schools all day, every day and are given the chance to work in two different classrooms over the course of the semester to gain a broader range of experience, McAllister said.

Erin Meulenberg, a student who participated in the program, said she enjoyed the experience and now feels more prepared to teach math and science subjects.

“It was a great experience, and I feel more prepared to teach science in my classroom now,” she said. “It is very comforting to know that there are so many resources out there for teachers.”

McAllister said the STEM workshop was a one-time event, but that her students may receive more opportunities to partner with the Marshall Space Flight Center for Educational Workshops again in the future.

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