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Education Students Certified to Teach Using Moon Rocks

September 22, 2011

Elementary education student Amanda Helmick is qualified to handle a national treasure.

On Thursday Helmick, a junior in Palm Beach Atlantic University’s School of Education and Behavioral Studies, and several of her classmates became certified to borrow lunar rocks and meteorite samples from the NASA and use them in classroom instruction.

PBA elementary education student Amanda Helmick examines a disk containing lunar rock samples.
PBA elementary education student Amanda Helmick examines a disk containing lunar rock samples.

NASA Aerospace Education Specialist Les Gold led two workshops for pre-service teachers on campus, giving about 30 students the opportunity to borrow the samples for up to two weeks at a time when they have classrooms of their own.

The tiny samples are encased in Lucite disks and come with strict requirements regarding use and storage. "They must be secure. They are considered irreplaceable national treasures," Gold cautioned the group.

Certified teachers can request a lunar rock disk, a meteorite disk or both through NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Each disk contains six samples, which can be viewed with the naked eye or under a microscope.

Astronauts collected the lunar samples during NASA’s Apollo missions from 1968 to 1972. The meteorite samples, mostly from Earth’s Antarctic region, contain some substances that are older than the solar system, Gold said.

Teachers also receive a packet with suggested classroom activities. "I feel the more involved the students are in the learning process, the more interesting it is for them," Gold said.

NASA Aerospace Specialist Les Gold speaks to education students at PBA about the Lunar and Meteorite Disk Program.
NASA Aerospace Specialist Les Gold speaks to education students at PBA about the Lunar and Meteorite Disk Program. 

Gold, a former high school science teacher who has been with NASA for about 30 years, is based at Kennedy Space Center. He trains about 1,000 teachers each year during workshops that can last for an hour to three hours. Thursday’s visit was his first to PBA.

Education students in two courses, including the senior-level Teaching Science in the Elementary School class, attended the workshops. The seniors in the course are preparing to begin their student teaching in public schools next semester.

As these students begin their teaching careers, their lunar rock certification training "has the possibility of impacting hundreds of students for years to come," said Associate Professor of Education Dr. Chelly Templeton.

Senior Jenny Moote said she likes that different subjects, such as mathematics and reading, can be integrated into the lessons. They also work for multiple grade levels, she said. “You can usually take a lesson and modify it,” she said.

Helmick said she is eager to talk with her future students about the commonly used products that are based on science that resulted from space exploration, such as the materials used in running shoes.

"The different things that came from the exploration are astounding," she said.

09/2011General News


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