To celebrate that teachers shape young minds and support students to learn, grow and perhaps change the world one day, NASA released a video this week to celebrate this honorable profession. In the video, teacher-turned-astronaut Ricky Arnold highlights the importance of teachers and STEM education.
As Arnold described in the video, the first teacher to go to space — NASA astronaut Christa McAuliffe, who died in the Challenger shuttle disaster — inspired him to become a teacher. The tragic event "planted a seed" that led Arnold to pursue teaching, he said. [Watch: Astronauts Become Billiard Balls to Demo Newton's 3rd Law]
As Arnold transitioned from teacher to astronaut, NASA took great steps forward in education.
Today, astronauts on the International Space Station are using their unique environment to teach as they learn and explore in space. These astronauts are taking part in a NASA initiative dubbed STEMonstrations. From the space station, NASA astronauts conduct video lessons, demonstrating scientific concepts in microgravity, such as investigating how potential energy can be converted into kinetic energy, studying Newton's laws of motion and more.
These videos are connected to lesson plans and other educational resources for teachers. The visual examples — in which the astronauts often use their own bodies' movement to show physics in action — can make it easier for students to understand these STEM concepts. Plus, seeing real astronauts floating around in microgravity is a great way to get them excited to learn.
Arnold's inspiration from McAuliffe continues with these education initiatives aboard the space station. He hopes to finish was she wasn't able to and follow through with her lesson plans. Through these initiatives and programs, like the A Year in Education on Station program that supports educators aboard the space station, NASA is determined to advance education opportunities and resources for teachers.