Site Meter Josh's Blog: NASA Trip

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


We went to NASA today for a tour arranged specially for the GE CBDP conference. The day started with a talk by Lt. Commander Jerry Carr, who headed Sky Lab in the early 1970's. He gave a great presentation on what it's like to be in space. What I found the most interesting was his response to a question about what in his K-12 experience influenced him to become an astronaut. He said that he always liked Math because he enjoyed solving problems. That statement stuck with me all day. As we toured the launch pad and the area where NASA scientists assemble the shuttle - and marvelled at the scale of the operation - I was struck by how many problems there are to solve. Each one of the physicists, mathematicians, chemists and engineers is solving a complex problem that enables NASA to launch enormous machines into space. Someone has to figure out how to move the shuttle, someone else has to build the machines to manufacture the unique parts, others have to calculate when the weather is right to stand the shuttle upright. Then, when the shuttle or another spacecraft is finally launched, it gathers data to send back so that we can expand our understanding of the universe. I started wondering whether our students see math and science as tools to help them solve problems, or whether they see it as discrete procedures to memorize in order to get a right answer. I was then reminded of a story I recently read about an alleged meteorite that fell in New Jersey. After tons of press and attention from the scientific community, it turned out to be man made. A scientist who was involved said that science is the only profession where it's okay to be wrong and that's how knowledge is created - by building on each other's ideas, most of which turn out to be wrong. So is it better to teach our students that there's one right answer, or should we teach them how to solve problems in teams?

NASA has some wonderful resources for us. Check out for tons of free resources. Everyone from Stamford who's at the conference is bringing back materials to share.

Please let me know what you think of these posts.

1 comment:

owen said...

Dr. Starr,
I think it's great that you have a blog! As a parent, I'm going to use some of the sites that you reccomend. I hope that when you are looking at best practices in Stamford you will look at Doreen O'leary who is outstanding on so many different levels. I was extremely disappointed to discover that as a parent I was not permitted to nominate her for teacher of the year.
Karen Nieberg
parent Toquam School