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NASA visits HCMS students

MURFREESBORO – Three, two, one…..blast off.

A representative from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) entertained and educated 8th graders from Hertford County Middle School here last week.

“The NASA Aerospace Education Services Program (AESP) serves America’s education community by enhancing awareness and understanding of the scientific and technological advances growing out of NASA’s missions of research, discovery and exploration,” AESP Aerospace Education Specialist Michael Woods said.

Woods shared NASA’s plans for a new international space station by the end of the decade, let students try on a space suit and encouraged the 8th graders to work hard in their classes, especially science and math.

“The AESP program provides assistance and support to educators in updating science, mathematics, geography and technology curricula and in utilizing new and evolving instructional technology and teaching strategies,” Woods said. “The programs are customized for each school and NASA has been making these types of presentations since 1961.”

Woods, based out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., covers a five state territory and performs a wide range of NASA related educational demonstrations. Woods and other AESP specialists have knowledge of NASA’s missions and programs, especially NASA’s four major missions: aeronautics, research science, exploration systems and space operations.

AESP specialists are experienced professional educators and familiar with current education issues, curriculum frameworks and educational standards.

The NASA/AESP presentation was arranged by Robert Chadwick from Hertford County’s Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (Gear Up). Gear Up works with students from middle school through high school graduation in an effort to increase the number of students seeking a higher education at a two-year or four-year college.

“These types of presentations provide a change of pace for the students and gets them talking about science and math,” Chadwick said.

A trip to the Langley Research Center is planned for the future Chadwick said.

“AESP also provides professional development and workshops for teachers,” Woods added.

AESP has a program which serves underrepresented minority populations called the Urban and Rural Community Enrichment Program.

According to AESP’s website, the URCEP program is designed to capture, channel and enhance the interest of educators and students in science, mathematics, engineering, technology and geography. The program exposes teachers and middle school students from rural and urban communities to interesting and broadening educational activities.

Woods showed students several videos highlighting NASA’s missions and shared interesting facts about the lives of astronauts when traveling or living in space. Woods showed the students a protective tile used on an actual space shuttle and explained the purpose of the tiles.

“There are over 27,000 tiles on a shuttle and they protect the shuttle from heat when it is re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere,” Woods explained.

Specialists like Woods are involved in educational improvements and reform efforts. They are trained and experienced in matching NASA resources with the needs of educators and their activities may include staff development programs, curriculum development projects, training and distance learning.