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Flagler grad shoots for the stars with NASA program

Oct 18, 2017
by Lauren Trevino

Many scientists dream of working for an organization like NASA. For one Flagler College Tallahassee graduate, that dream has become a reality. Eighth-grade science teacher Katrina Roddenberry, ‘08, became a member of the inaugural Space Exploration Educator Crew this year, sponsored by Space Center Houston. She was one of 36 teachers from across the country chosen for the elite group, which is an extension of the Space Exploration Educator Conference.

The application process was rigorous: candidates had to submit eight essays, a letter of support and a YouTube video explaining the impact they hoped to have on the community through the program. The crew represents six regions, each of which is tasked with developing innovative ways for students to learn in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes. The teachers have also been charged with sharing their methods with fellow teachers and the community.

Roddenberry is no stranger to working with NASA. During her time as a teacher at Riversink Elementary School, she used the organization’s Digital Learning Network, a program that allows students to speak to experts through video chats, in her classes. In 2013, she helped her third-grade class and a team of teachers in pitching their science experiment to Johnson Space Center for a chance to perform the experiment while on a zero-gravity flight. Her group was one of seven chosen from across the country.

That same year she won the Success for Educators grant for her submission titled “ARISS: Talking with Astronauts,” which funded equipment to communicate with astronauts aboard the International Space Station in 2015. Students from Riversink spoke to the first Italian woman in space as she orbited above their school.

Roddenberry takes the role of showing her students the possibilities of STEM seriously.

“I want to expose the kids to as many STEM careers as I can, especially those held by women,” Roddenberry said. “I think it’s powerful for students to see that. There’s a need for minority and female role models.”

Roddenberry herself did not realize how much fun science could be until she got into the classroom. Growing up she had never felt like she was encouraged to pursue science. It was only when she began using hands-on techniques in the classroom that her love for the subject grew.

“At the beginning of the year I ask my kids to draw a scientist,” she said. “Usually they draw a typical mad scientist, a white male with crazy hair. I have them do the same assignment at the end of the year and by then they are drawing themselves and groups as scientists.”

Flagler has helped inspire the hands-on approach that Roddenberry uses with her students. In pursuing an undergraduate Elementary Education degree, her science methods professor at the college’s

Tallahassee campus encouraged teachers to employ inquiry-based science, where students experience the discipline as part of the learning process.

She looks forward to using her creative approaches to a science-based curriculum in a different context this fall, when she begins a new position as eighth-grade science teacher at Wakulla Middle School in Crawfordville, Fla.

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