NASA's Global Precipitation Measurement, or GPM, mission recently completed a competitive process to select 25 teachers from around the world for its Master Teacher Program. The chosen educators will develop educational resources based on GPM's data – with a focus on the water cycle and related applications – to share with their students and school communities.
"Our goal is to make teachers aware of the wealth of resources offered through NASA education and outreach. We also will receive feedback on how their students received the material," said Dorian Janney, education specialist and manager for GPM's Master Teachers Program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
2013-14 Master Teacher Molly McMahon educating students about GPM at Rockville (Md.) Science Day.
The program's selection process helped identify teachers who are active in professional learning communities, thereby allowing them to share their experience working with NASA content and GPM information with other education colleagues.
The GPM satellite, along with a network of partner Earth-observing satellites, measures rain, snow and other types of precipitation every three hours around the world. Once transmitted to NASA Goddard, the data advances scientists' understanding of water and energy cycles and allows them to share their discoveries with the broader community, including educators.
These satellite observations now will reach the classroom, as the cadre of Master Teachers will present lessons and activities focusing on different aspects of the GPM mission and other NASA materials to their students. Topics will range from weather and climate to the science behind droughts, flooding and freshwater availability.
"This is an awesome responsibility and tremendously engaging as we begin our adventure working alongside scientists," said Nancy Carey, an elementary school teacher in Gaithersburg, Maryland. "Being a Master Teacher with NASA's GPM mission puts teachers and students on the forefront of scientific discovery and exploration."
In 2013, the Master Teachers Program focused exclusively on middle school teachers in the United States. Now college professors, bilingual teachers, museum directors and international instructors from Nigeria to Switzerland will participate in the Master Teachers Program. By expanding this opportunity to elementary and high school teachers and introducing geographical diversity, the GPM team not only expands its reach but gains valuable feedback from a diverse audience.
"We wanted to make sure we had elementary teachers and high school teachers as well," Janney said. "We also looked at geographic diversity, to take into account what differences and nuances people could bring to the table."
To be selected by NASA as a Master Teacher, candidates submitted a list of how they planned to use the GPM mission’s data in their classroom. They then presented these ideas in an online seminar, which is the main mode of communication between GPM’s education team and the Master Teacher group. Each teacher also demonstrated his or her expertise as part of a larger professional learning community.
"I know that a NASA-based program will be well-designed and will have so many opportunities and resources to inspire my students," said Jennifer Reigle, a third grade teacher in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. "I am thrilled to be part of the GPM Teacher Cohort, and I am really looking forward to engaging my students in all fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM."