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Teachers find ideas to hype math, science

By JON WILSON
Published July 1, 2007


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Aerospace engineers will start retiring in batches during the next few years, say industry leaders trying to recruit the next get-it-done work force.

And they are counting on Pinellas County educators to help.

Four south county teachers just returned from an intense, weeklong Honeywell Educators at Space Academy program, where they received training and classroom instruction that in a small way mimics the preparation astronauts receive.

More importantly, the four said, they will return to the classroom later this summer and begin spreading the word about space-age industry and the need for a new crop of technical experts.

They want to bring new "hopes and dreams" into the lives of their pupils, said Mary Jackson, a Pinellas Park Middle School teacher who has taught math but is switching to social studies.

"A lot of kids don't imagine or think of what they'll be doing 10 years down the road, " Jackson said.

Last month, the Associated Press, quoting industry executives, said that one out of four aerospace workers will be eligible to retire starting next year.

Many are baby boomers who responded to America's call for more scientists and engineers after Russia launched Sputnik I in 1957.

In Pinellas County, a new emphasis on accelerated math and science courses began in 1958. That was about the time the county's economy began to include major firms with space-age missions.

Pinellas' newest "space teachers" will introduce material designed to fire enthusiasm among the younger crowd. For example, Elizabeth Wright, a Bay Point Middle School algebra teacher, will ask her pupils to learn about altitude trackers and measuring rocket angles. Her classes might build a tracker scope.

Patricia Thomas, Dixie Hollins High School physics and physical science teacher, will emphasize the space-age career opportunities.

Jess Scott, who teaches science and a special class designed to mine potential from students whose talent might be overlooked, will ask her Meadowlawn Middle School youngsters to measure rocket thrust and figure the amount needed to make the missiles go.

"It gets them out of their seats and physically creating science, " Scott said.

Jackson, the social studies teacher, will show her classes how ancient cultures saw the skies. She will follow historical perspective through the ages, ending with modern photos from the Hubble space telescope.

Last week, the teachers were bubbling about their experience. They even brought their academy uniforms to an interview session.

The four were among 265 teachers from 43 states and 21 nations to attend the academy.

Honeywell, a worldwide technology firm, chose them from among about 1, 000 applicants who wrote competitive essays about how they would take what they learned to the classroom.

The women received about 50 hours of classroom, laboratory and field training. A typical day went 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Included were astronaut training exercises such as shuttle simulations, scenario-based space missions, land and water survival training and a state-of-the-art flight dynamics instruction.

[Last modified June 30, 2007, 23:52:33]


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