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Educational Design

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Charleston Can Do teachers and students have consistently demonstrated the use of cutting edge technology in teacher education, student projects, and teacher/student presentations at regional, national, and international conferences. Throughout the GeoCam, KidSat, and EarthKAM projects, NASA has drawn on Charleston educators for leadership roles in all of these projects.

The GeoCam project was the creative development of the Charleston County School District Can Do Project supported by its education partnerships with the Medical University of South Carolina and the College of Charleston. There were many lessons learned from that project and later expanded in the NASA sponsored KidSat and EarthKAM projects. GeoCam II will apply these experiences and build on them. Charleston Can Do teachers have benefited from their ongoing involvement in every one of these missions.

GeoCam developed the concept of a student-run mission control room. This idea evolved and grew more as the teachers and students built a team approach. The central idea that GeoCam promoted was that students would be running the mission operations center using sophisticated (pre-Internet) technology and teachers would support them as advisors and mentors. The idea that students in middle and high school would be running an active control room interacting with the Shuttle crew was an original and innovative idea in educational methodology. Learning to work cohesively with students from other schools and regions was another challenge to overcome.

Developing job descriptions for the various positions and training students in the job assignments solved the problem. Variations on this model have been used for all student mission control rooms that followed. Major technology changes, especially the development of the Internet, have changed the operational patterns and allowed for the near real-time delivery of the images. The primary personnel functions have remained constant. The decision to have a central student mission control room with students from participating schools assuming specific responsibilities for a specified shift was one of the early innovations. The specialist positions have been adapted at every subsequent student mission control room. This model allowed for more than 180 students to be active in the mission control room over a period of eight days in groups of 20 to 30. Parents and teachers have been both surprised and pleased by the level of activity and the good order in which students have been able to perform useful targeting in a limited amount of time. It was found that advanced teacher education and practice mission simulations were essential to build the confidence of everyone and test the model before the mission. This process is now part of all student mission control rooms. Teachers and students shared input about how to improve the control room and changes were made as needed. Many students wrote in journals about the positive feelings from the mission control room. A student from Buist Academy wrote that this was real and whatever target was selected was their own responsibility. Students felt very empowered and as a consequence, carefully prepared for and thoughtfully executed their mission responsibilities. In this atmosphere, students often performed at levels beyond their teachers’, their parents’, and even their own expectations. They left the experience with not only new skills but with a vastly improved self-confidence and self image.

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The NASA KidSat project selected Can Do teachers to participate as lead teachers to both write and pilot the project for three years. The idea of individual mission control rooms using the latest computer technology, the new Internet in 1994, was tried in schools. The push to get schools connected to the Internet (almost all were not) was considered innovative at the time. These schools were on the leading edge of image technology use in the classroom. Some schools liked the control they had over the image selection and the event atmosphere that an active mission created in the whole school. But in other schools, because not all students in a school were involved in the project, some teachers and principals found it disruptive. KidSat demonstrated a need to develop a model that fits the school district technology resources and individual principals' comfort zones. As a result, the follow-up EarthKAM project has been experimenting with a consolidated regional control room. GeoCam II suggests a flexible model that will use a central control room and partner schools working together. Individual schools that wish to have a control room site could use the Internet to send requests to the regional control center. This multi-layered model will allow schools and district to choose the form of participation that best meets their individual needs.
The most educationally important outcome has been the use of Earth image technology by students to try to answer science related questions. Lessons were developed from the original GeoCam images that became the models for future lessons in the KidSat and EarthKAM projects. Lessons were developed by Charleston County educators to teach other teachers and students how to relate images, maps, and science questions. As an example, students in the first KidSat project used images to study the Rio Xingu, a river in Brazil. These student-scientists used the 1996 KidSat mission images, 1976 maps, and computer technology to demonstrate river changes. Teachers and students presented these findings at national and international conferences. Other project included exploration of small islands in the Pacific Ocean, changes in the size of the Dead Sea, exploration of coastal changes, and many other examples. Teachers have taught students to look beyond their books and library. They have presented an opportunity for students to take personal interest in areas of science that they choose to explore and to teach them to use new tools to achieve their personal research goals. The role of education in the GeoCam II project is one that will be felt in classes across the country. The placing of the GeoCam II cameras on the International Space Station will offer the chance for multispectral images to be selected and used by students in every classroom. The GeoCam II project will continue to offer students the opportunity to participate in science in a very real way while still having fun.

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Earth Observation and Education

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