UW News

January 14, 2000

Space Grant resource center provides tools for K-12 science teachers

News and Information

The Washington NASA Space Grant Consortium’s recent move into new offices could be profitable for K-12 teachers throughout the Northwest, giving them easy access to a wealth of science teaching materials produced by the nation’s space agency.

The new Space Grant headquarters, in 401 Johnson Hall on the University of Washington campus, allowed creation of the Regional Educator Resource Center, containing educational materials such as workbooks, lesson plans, compact discs and videos.

The aim is to encourage teachers throughout Washington and the region to use the center as a means of helping their students meet state and national science education standards, said Space Grant director Janice DeCosmo. Though her program has distributed such materials for several years, cramped quarters in another part of Johnson Hall limited the effort’s effectiveness.

“It’s been really difficult for us to serve teachers,” she said. “A lot of our material was boxed up. But now they can come in and browse for what they need.”

The center will kick off with an open house from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Jan. 22. Included is a three-hour workshop by inventor and educator Ed Sobey, who created the Redmond-based Northwest Invention Center to help spur inventors and to serve schools and museums with hands-on programs and exhibits. Sobey, who teaches museum management at the UW, also is author of “Fantastic Flying Fun with Science: 69 Projects You Can Fly, Spin, Launch and Ride.”

Sobey’s presentation will emphasize what DeCosmo envisions as the creative uses teachers will make of the resource center. They will be able to visit the center and browse through materials to see which will work best in their classes. Those who live and work too far away to visit the center can look through a catalog of materials at http://www.waspacegrant.org and place an order. The materials are free, but there are charges for shipping and duplicating.

The Washington Space Grant program was established in 1989 with a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and is housed in the UW’s geophysics program. The primary mission is to further science, mathematics and technology education, as well as aerospace science and engineering research, throughout the state. A key element in that mission is to provide materials that assist in science education at the K-12 level.

“In the last four or five years, NASA has shifted from providing pretty pictures to providing things that are much more useful in the classroom,” DeCosmo said.

For instance, ready-made lesson plans can be integrated easily into different school curricula, and teachers can adapt them for their own classroom needs. Examples are units on rockets or aeronautics that provide guidance for the teacher and outline student activities in science, mathematics and technology. Other units cover broader topics, such as exploring Earth from space.

“Teachers love these materials because the kids get very excited,” DeCosmo said. “They can use the materials to teach basic principals of science and mathematics, but in a format that’s appealing to the students.”


For more information, contact DeCosmo at (206) 685-8542 or janice@geophys.washington.edu