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Exploring Space with NASA

Aug. 14, 2002

Sixth grade teacher Carrie Strasburger will have interesting stories to tell her students at Williamsburg Middle School of how she spent her summer.

This July, Strasburger attended a workshop sponsored by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). The educational workshop was held at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. where Strasburger and 23 other middle school math and science teachers participated in hands-on experiments.

"I was awarded the opportunity to study with NASA scientists and learn why we explore the universe and galaxies that are beyond our own," said Strasburger. "The experience was beyond words."

During the 14-day journey, Strasburger was submerged into an exploratory atmosphere where she was able to speak to and learn from Nobel Laureate professors and NASA scientists. Strasburger was able to work with materials from the Genesis space craft. The Genesis mission will collect and explore stardust.

STRASBURGER WAS THE ONLY educator selected to attend the JPL workshops from the Washington area or the state of Virginia. She plans on integrating the information she collected from her experience with NASA and incorporate it into her classroom this fall.

"I want to get my students to ask why and how we come to certain conclusions and teach them that the journey to getting an answer can be more fulfilling than the actual answer," said Strasburger. "I want to make my students become questioners and doubters and realize that there are endless options and opportunities when learning."

This fall, Strasburger will be going into her seventh year of teaching and her third year at Williamsburg. She hopes to spread her enthusiasm about science and space exploration to her students. She plans to design a mission to Mars as well as construct an inflatable planetarium inside her classroom.

"I'm going to make learning fun for my students by building a planetarium in my classroom," said Strasburger. "I think that this activity will be a good change of pace from the regular field trip to the local planetarium."

These classroom projects will perpetuate the tradition of NASA-related instruction for Strasburger's students and will hopefully begin a partnership between Williamsburg and NASA. Recently, Williamsburg students were featured on a 2002-2003 NASA poster that is distributed to every school in the United States.

"THIS WILL BE an outstanding opportunity for students to capture the interest of students in inter-planetary science," said Williamsburg principal Kathleen Francis. "Ms. Strasburger will be sharing her experiences with teachers county-wide and is willing to speak to others in order to start a tradition in NASA-related studies in the Arlington area."

Strasburger will also share her experiences with her fellow colleagues at Williamsburg Elementary, located at 3600 Harrison St.

"I'm very excited about the upcoming school year and the knowledge that Carrie learned about planetary exploration over the summer. It will be very useful to the students," said fellow Williamsburg sixth grade science teacher LaTanja Thomas.

In addition to speaking in the local community about her summer trip, Strasburger will also share her experiences on the national level, at the JPL workshop at the Virginia Association of Science Teachers conference in November, as well as the National Science Teachers Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., in March 2003.