Inspiring success

Published 10:44 pm Friday, September 27, 2013

In the increasingly difficult world of public education, teachers are finding it necessary to get creative in finding ways to inspire their students on a low budget.

With public resources stretched to their limits, educators these days rely on a variety of other assets — parents, corporate partnerships, nature, their own bank accounts and their imaginations among them — to get materials and inspiration that help their students grasp and retain subject matter, apply what they’ve learned to the real world, develop critical thinking skills, discover new talents and assert their individuality.

Fortunately for students at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, teachers there are able to draw on an exclusive resource that inspires their students to think beyond the bounds of Earth’s atmosphere.


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The school has been one of only 12 NASA Explorer Schools nationwide since 2010, when gifted resource teacher Elizabeth Petry applied for the honor.

The designation gives the school access most other schools wouldn’t get. Students there have video-conferenced with astronauts and been visited by a Tuskegee Airman and scientists from Langley Research Center. Some of them even spent a weekend at Kennedy Space Center.

The school also uses NASA lesson plans to encourage what Petry calls “problem-based learning.” For example, students recently have worked on a lunar colony project, stretching their knowledge of everything from the science of space to marketing such a concept to the social studies aspects of exploring a new world.

If that wasn’t enough otherworldly inspiration for students, the school recently learned it would become the recipient of an American flag that traveled into space. It’s a validation of the efforts teachers at the school have been making to inspire students.

With the extra emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math in American schools, inspiration like that provided through the NASA Explorer School program at Mack Benn might be just what’s needed to develop the dreams and talents of the right students.

We applaud the efforts of everyone at Mack Benn for pushing their students to excel.