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GHS teacher takes part in NASA Institute

Nikki Patel, a first-year teacher at Greenville High School, was among teachers from across the state to take part in the NASA Science Institute at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. (Courtesy Photo)

Nikki Patel, a first-year teacher at Greenville High School, was among teachers from across the state to take part in the NASA Science Institute at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. (Courtesy Photo)

A Greenville High School teacher recently received some training that is out of this world.

Nikki Patel, a first-year teacher at Greenville High School, was among teachers from across the state to take part in the NASA Science Institute at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.

During the three-day NASA Institute, participants were trained by education staff in the use of NASA education products specific to their grades and aligned to the new Alabama Course of Study: Science. They also toured the Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Museum, and developed model lessons and units. Participants had the chance to hear about real-world applications of the standards through discussion-style presentations by NASA subject-matter experts in science and engineering.

Patel, who teaches chemistry, physics and AP chemistry to sophomores, juniors and seniors, said she is excited to bring what they learned to her students.

“The long and short of it is students no longer need to be spoon fed information just to memorize it and give it back,” she said. “They need to be able to take information and develop new ideas, approaches, and/or methods to improving existing ways of doing things or creating new ways of doing things.”

One way of doing this is to make the lessons more hands on. Patel has tried to do that with activities such as the “Index Card Tower Challenge.”
The challenge is for students to create the tallest index card tower that is free standing and remains self-supporting for 10 seconds. The tower must hold a stuffed animal.

“It received positive student feedback and engagement,” Patel said. “My students had so much fun working in groups and creating unique structures.”

Patel said perhaps the biggest lesson she learned at the institute is the realization of the opportunities that are before her students.

“My biggest takeaway was the vast opportunity my students will have in their generation,” she said. “I realized that as a teacher for this generation, I need to make sure I encourage my students to become innovative problem solvers.”

Patel, who is in her second year of teaching overall, will serve as one of three representatives for Region 11. As such, she will host training, either virtually or in person, to help incorporate NASA/STEM learning into science classrooms across the region.