World Water Day Event with NASA astronaut emphasizes water awareness for kids and STEM connections for educators
World Water Day took on galactic proportions for third through fifth grade students from Glenallan Elementary School in Maryland—and gave teachers hands-on ways to link the "cool factor" of space with vital learning in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).This year,
A day-long educational event organized by Project WET, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Montgomery Parks, Out of This World Water Day featured NASA Astronaut and former science teacher Ricky Arnold. He talked to Glenallan students about how his time in space impacted how he thinks about water on the “Blue Planet,” and how space exploration can inspire students to tackle STEM subjects. Arnold recently returned from six months on board the International Space Station.
Following Arnold's multimedia presentation, students walked to Montgomery Parks’ Brookside Gardens to take part in a water festival—a hands-on, interactive morning of activity stations led by Maryland educators and focusing on water topics ranging from animals in the Chesapeake Bay to the chemical and physical properties of water. Interactive stations helped students see, hear and feel the importance of water stewardship and conservation as they built miniature dams, sifted plastic beads from sand and ran races to represent habitat loss and how water has to be carried in some parts of the world.
When the students went back to school, it was time for the teachers to start learning at the Water, Space and STEM Education Symposium and Training. Following a keynote address from Arnold, participants—who included not only local teachers but also state and regional educators and education experts, as well as government officials—took part in an interactive water stewardship activity.
A panel discussion followed, featuring Arnold as well as NASA's Earth Science Education and Outreach Lead Dr. Trena Ferrell; Dr. Juliann Dupuis, an Associate Dean at the School of Education and Associate Professor of Science Education as well as the STEM Program Coordinator for the Notre Dame of Maryland University; and Project WET Vice President of Networks Julia Beck. The panelists discussed their definition of STEM education, as well as what role water can play in educating young people in 21st-century skills.
In addition to discussing how water and STEM can best be integrated, Arnold explained the importance of remembering that people living on Earth share limited resources, just as astronauts do on the ISS. “All of us on this planet are interconnected in ways we don’t fully understand,” Arnold told The Montgomery Caller. “The resources that we all share, particularly water, are critically important for our future.”