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International Astronautical Congress, Beijing, China

Academia Cotopaxi, Quito, Ecuador Lower School Teacher, NASA Endeavor Fellow Education Consultant for the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency


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From September 23 to 27 I had the privilege to present and participate in the 64th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Beijing, China (see http://www.iac2013.org/dct/page/1). The IAC is an annual event, held globally, in order to bring the top people in their professional fields together for the purpose of promoting space development for the benefit of mankind. This event includes the publication of current space science research, the presentation of technical sessions, plenary sessions, highlight lectures, technical visits, an astounding exhibition and much more. On this occasion I was honored to represent the educational sector of the following organizations: Academia Cotopaxi, the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency (EXA) and the NASA Endeavor Fellowship Program.


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The paper presented for the educational sector of the technical sessions, and co-authored with Ecuadorian astronaut Ronnie Nader, was titled, “The Effects on Math Achievement and Self-Efficacy when Incorporating Satellite Education in a 4th Grade Classroom.” The paper is an extension of the ongoing aerospace activities which have been embedded into my curriculum – when applicable to the educational standards being taught at any one time – and with the goal of bringing authentic learning to the school environment. Before initiating this action research project, a literature review revealed that little has been published regarding the implementation of satellite education research in the regular classroom. Furthermore, review of the body of work to date revealed that the undertaking of such an innovative approach to education would: address the need to better prepare our students for 21st century expectations, satisfy the core objectives of the US national math standards and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), implement research-based teaching practices, and have positive impacts on attitudes towards math, science and technology.


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The methodology of this project included the use of live weather satellite downloads, made possible through the utilization of a virtual ground station in the classroom, as provided by EXA. Throughout the school year, math lessons utilized this real-time data when implementing – and adjusting as needed for better implementation in South America – targeted math lessons developed by NASA’s Weather Data Learning Center. Data collection was both qualitative and quantitative, and the triangulation of this information included: student and parent surveys, journal reflections, interviews, photographs, videos, observations and math assessments (both standardized and internal). Analysis of the data revealed that when authentic, satellite education was embedded into the curriculum, students showed a notable increase in both their attitudes and achievement in mathematics. Additionally, the media in both the local and international community took an interest in this pioneering approach to education.


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As the educational consultant for EXA, the congress was also an opportunity to network and plan with others; a position which has proven beneficial in bringing the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives to our school over the last 6 years.


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Personally speaking, the highlights of the congress involved many occasions where upon I was able to sit next to, and converse with, astronauts, heads of agencies, scientists and engineers participating in cutting edge explorations. As an example, at one moment Canadian astronaut, Robert Thirsk, was giving me resources to learn more about tomato seed flown on the International Space Station (ISS), and then I turn around and am able to ask human space science researcher, Dr. Sutton, rarely known statistics regarding Felix Baumgartner’s recent jump from the edge of space. As our Lower School students had, at two grade levels, followed the myriad of advancements of this historical jump – leading up to, during, and after this 2012 historic event (Felix even sent the students autographed photos!) – I knew that our students would be very interested in learning more about what Dr.Sutton had to say. If interested in viewing this specific example of how aerospace developments can be incorporated into the curriculum, you can view the “Parachute Math…” student video on their blog at http://msmargotsclass.blogspot.com/2012_06_01_archive.html.


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Also worth sharing is that during one Highlight Lecture, given by a NASA’s ISS Program Scientist, Ecuador was included on a slide that showed the 44 countries that have utilized the International Space Station to date. What is important to be aware of is that Ecuador was included in this international presentation because of the educational initiatives that Academia Cotopaxi has aboard the ISS…twice!

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