Tucson, AZ – June 6, 2011

This summer marks the end of an era.

Mission STS-135 will be the final mission for NASA’s space shuttle program, an innovative project that made its first official launch in 1981. The idea for a reusable spacecraft was tossed around back in the 1960s, and in 1972, President Richard Nixon announced that NASA would begin work on the space shuttle program. To date, there have been 134 missions, with one left to go. Of those missions, two ended in disaster. The losses of the Challenger and Columbia shuttles, with their entire crews, are tragedies that are still etched in the memories of many people worldwide. The Challenger mission, with teacher Christa McAuliffe aboard, was particularly difficult for many students to emotionally process. According to NASA, the shuttle missions have resulted in a 2% death rate per astronaut per flight – a very low rate of risk. Despite the relative frequency and familiarity of shuttle launches, however, space missions are still journeys into the relative unknown, still explorations into the heart of darkness.

The value of space exploration has long been a controversial topic, with opponents citing fiscal waste and proponents championing valuable knowledge gained about our universe and our origins. For many students, space exploration is a compelling topic, and one that they eagerly embrace. There’s a certain romance to exploration in general: tales of polar expeditions, journeys west across the American frontier, and plumbing the depths of the sea have long been classroom favorites. The courage and daring demonstrated by explorers (including astronauts) aptly illustrates the human need to know, to understand the world around us and to keep striving for sometimes unknown heights. We look, we wonder, we explore – it’s the human condition. This eternal curiosity and the quest for knowledge also characterizes the very essence of education, and the ability to make connections, generate new ideas, and to simply understand. Space is the birthplace of our planet, and someday, space will reclaim it. To probe the heavens and to study space and its contents is to help understand our place in the universe, how life on our planet came to be, and perhaps what our future holds. It’s one of the few mysterious environments left for us to explore, and it’s a vast one.

This week’s Joann’s Picks column on the Gateway’s home page, www.TheGateway.org will focus on space exploration and some of the skills necessary to work or maneuver in this unfamiliar environment. Peggy’s Corner presents some additional interdisciplinary resources about the space shuttle. In addition, we will be featuring many more grammar lessons, resources, and examples of grammatical errors on the Gateway’s Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TheGateway.org) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/Gatewaytoskills) pages. Follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook so you don’t miss anything.

Discussions will continue on last week’s theme of grammar on both pages. All of the weekly Gateway columns and resource selections are archived on the following blog site: http://thegatewayto21stcenturyskills.blogspot.com/.

Resources covered in this week’s columns include:

Training to Work in Space
Grade: 3-5
Astronauts are trained to work in space in stressful conditions. Jobs that must be completed in space are practiced many times on Earth so that astronauts will be able to complete them in a more stressful space environment. Students will experience some training as they practice assembling a support for a solar array. They will discover that using strategies and repeat practice allows them to complete the job with more skill and less time. This lesson was produced by Challenger Center for Space Science Education, which offers a broad array of mission-based space science activities. Challenger Center takes over 400,000 kids annually through simulated space missions, and also offers a host of educational materials for teachers.

Navigating a Spacecraft
Subjects: Space sciences, Math
Grade: 5-8
In this activity students work in pairs to plot the paths (trajectories) of a spacecraft traveling between Earth and Mars in the year 2018 and returning in 2020. These paths use the minimum amount of fuel, and take about six months to travel from one planet to the other. This lesson was produced by Challenger Center for Space Science Education, which aims to create a scientifically literate population that can thrive in the 21st century and beyond. A network of Challenger Learning Centers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and South Korea offers diverse classroom programming and community outreach programs for kids.

Space Exploration Using Photo Story
Subjects: US History, Space Science, English
Grade: 11
Students research the American space exploration program in the context of the Cold War, and use Photo Story to create a presentation using photos of space program, key figures, and documents in order to present their findings to their classmates. This lesson is a product of HotChalk Learning, a portal that provides an online learning management system and lesson plans.

About The Gateway to 21st Century Skills

The Gateway has been serving teachers continuously since 1996. It is the oldest publicly accessible U.S. repository of educational resources on the Web and the oldest continuously operating service of its kind in the world. The Gateway is sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) and supported by over 700 quality contributors. The Gateway to 21st Century Skills is the cornerstone of the Global Learning Resource Connection (GLRC) which is a JES & Co. program.

About Joann Wasik- Author of Joann’s Picks

Joann is the Metadata Cataloger for The Gateway for 21st Century Skills. Her primary responsibilities for The Gateway include locating and cataloging standards-based K-12 lessons and activities for The Gateway, as well as writing the “Joann’s Picks” weekly column. Before joining The Gateway in 2006, Joann had been involved with numerous projects at the Information Institute of Syracuse at Syracuse University, including virtual reference with the Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) project; virtual reference competencies and education with the Digital Reference Education Initiative (DREI) project; and metadata cataloging with the Gateway for Educational Materials (GEM). Her previous experience also includes technology training and positions in academic libraries. She also conducts freelance research for business and educational clients. Joann holds B.A. and M.A.T. degrees in English from Boston College, and an M.L.S. degree from Syracuse University.

About Peggy James- Author of Peggy’s Corner

Peggy received her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from The University of Arizona, and continued on to earn her M.Ed. from the U of A as well. She has taught physical science and chemistry at the high school level. She is working toward her endorsement in Gifted Education, and has been actively involved in coaching and volunteering in Odyssey of the Mind and Academic Decathlon. She has a passion for teaching critical thinking and creativity in the classroom. She has done work writing, evaluating, and aligning lesson plans to standards as a curriculum consultant with the National Education Association Health Information Network. She is very excited to help create a collaborative environment for educators to discover new resources that will enhance their teaching!

About the GLRC

The Global Learning Resource Connection (GLRC) is a public-private collaboration which brings to fruition ongoing work between JES & Co., a U.S. 501(c)(3) education research organization, corporate sponsors and education agencies worldwide. Leading the initial corporate involvement are founding worldwide partners Microsoft, Cisco, Cengage/Gale, the National Education Association (NEA), and other leading corporations in process. The GLRC ties together several significant semantic web technologies developed through funding from the National Science Foundation and is designed to support cyber learning. The GLRC supports the implementation of the mapping of major collections of learning resources in systems around the world to the machine-readable expressions of the learning outcomes based on the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) modeling and technical framework. The work will implement the international linking of those resources through trans-jurisdictional mapping of learning outcomes by means of Semantic Web/Linked Data principles for teacher/learner access and use. For more information about the GLRC, contact Terry Smithson at TerryS@JESandCo.org or visit us www.JESandCo.org.

About JES & Co.

JES & Co., a publicly funded 501(c) (3) education research organization, is a leader in research and deployment of education programs based on open standards. With 20 years of experience in interoperability and portability of educational resources, organizations around the world come to JES & Co. for leadership and guidance on education programs and initiatives. Since its establishment in the early 1990s, JES & Co. has led and managed The Achievement Standards Network (ASN), The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, The Gateway to 21st Century Skills (formerly known as GEM), the Dell Academy, the Intel Student Certification Program, and Microsoft’s Partners in Learning. For more information about JES & Co. or the Global Learning Resource Connection, visit www.JESandCo.org.

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