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Introduction

This October, all 9th grade students participated in an interactive videoconference called “The Effects of Microgravity on the Human Body” with educators at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This exciting activity is a part of the universe unit students are currently studying in physical science. One of the objectives of the unit is to help students build an understanding of the role of gravity in forming and maintaining planets, stars and the solar system.

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Preparation

 

To prepare for the videoconference, students participated in lessons about gravity and microgravity that included reading articles, watching video clips and observing teacher demonstrations, as well as designing lab investigations to learn more about the affect of gravity on falling objects. A few days prior to the videoconference students prepared by brainstorming questions they hoped to ask the NASA representatives during the conference.

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The Video Conference

On October 13th, with the help of the technology department and the JMG students, teachers were able to prepare the auditorium to hold two similar conferences during the day, each hosting approximately half of the 9th grade class. Thanks to the coordination of all ninth grade teachers, students were able to attend at least one of the presentations despite having to miss class time in other subject areas, and the event was deemed a success. Students seemed obviously prepared as they actively answered questions about microgravity from the NASA presenters. They had the opportunity to view live videos streaming from inside the Johnson Space Center control room and astronaut training pool, as well as from cameras located on the space station. They learned about the effects that extended time in a microgravity environment have on the bodies of astronauts, as well as how astronauts prepare for and recover from the changes their bodies experience while in space. At the end of the presentation, students used two microphones to ask the questions they had prepared earlier in the week.

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Summary

 

The ninth grade science teachers, Scott Pillsbury, Stephani Sawyer-Main and Kate Drummond organized the videoconference not only to meet the requirements of the curriculum but also to increase relevancy and improve student engagement in science. The planning for such a large-scale event was possible due the common planning time shared by these three freshmen science teachers. The development of the new teaming structure for the ninth grade teachers will hopefully support the planning and coordination of more of this type of enriching educational experience in the future.

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