Area teachers attend STARBASE Academy workshop

Berkeley County teachers Nicole Krause and Cathy Stickel watch their "thermal protection shield" stand up to the heat of a gas flame during a workshop hosted by the Martinsburg STARBASE at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, WV, on July 17, 2009.  Twenty-six local teachers participated in the teacher’s academy which focused on creative ways to teach science, technology, engineering, and math to intermediate school students. On the last day of the workshop, Todd Ensign, Educator Resource Center Program Manager for NASA IV & V Facility based in Fairmont, had the teachers design a heat shield made of wire mesh and aluminum foil, similar to the thermal protection that will be used for the future Ares spacecraft which is expected to take man back to the moon.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Berkeley County teachers Nicole Krause and Cathy Stickel watch their "thermal protection shield" stand up to the heat of a gas flame during a workshop hosted by the Martinsburg STARBASE at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, WV, on July 17, 2009. Twenty-six local teachers participated in the teacher’s academy which focused on creative ways to teach science, technology, engineering, and math to intermediate school students. On the last day of the workshop, Todd Ensign, Educator Resource Center Program Manager for NASA IV & V Facility based in Fairmont, had the teachers design a heat shield made of wire mesh and aluminum foil, similar to the thermal protection that will be used for the future Ares spacecraft which is expected to take man back to the moon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Berkeley County teachers Erin Sponaugle and Jennifer Higginbotham use GPS devices to track the coordinates of their location as part of an activity designed to measure the circumference of the earth, during a teachers workshop hosted by Martinsburg  STARBASE at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg West Virginia,  July 17, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Berkeley County teachers Erin Sponaugle and Jennifer Higginbotham use GPS devices to track the coordinates of their location as part of an activity designed to measure the circumference of the earth, during a teachers workshop hosted by Martinsburg STARBASE at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg West Virginia, July 17, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Berkeley County teacher, Samantha Sloan, takes a temperature reading of a thermal protection tile being blasted by a gas flame during a workshop for teachers hosted by Martinsburg STARBASE at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, West Virginia, July 17, 2009. The tile, similar to the ones protecting the space shuttle, measured 900 degrees in the heated area but remained at room temperature on the other side. Todd Ensign, right, Educator Resource Center Program Manager at NASA IV & V Facility Fairmont University, led several activities on the final day of the workshop. (U.S. Air Force photo by Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Berkeley County teacher, Samantha Sloan, takes a temperature reading of a thermal protection tile being blasted by a gas flame during a workshop for teachers hosted by Martinsburg STARBASE at the 167th Airlift Wing, Martinsburg, West Virginia, July 17, 2009. The tile, similar to the ones protecting the space shuttle, measured 900 degrees in the heated area but remained at room temperature on the other side. Todd Ensign, right, Educator Resource Center Program Manager at NASA IV & V Facility Fairmont University, led several activities on the final day of the workshop. (U.S. Air Force photo by Emily Beightol-Deyerle)

Martinsburg, WV -- How would you fair flying a Cessna 182 light aircraft on a six-minute hop from one airport to another with little time behind the yoke? 

Twenty-six teachers from around the Eastern Panhandle and Frederick County, Va., recently got a chance to find out. Logging time on a flight simulator was one of an array of hands-on activities offered to elementary and middle school educators at the 21st Century in the Classroom Teacher's Academy. 

The week-long workshop held July 13-17 - which featured activities focusing on science, technology, engineering and math skills (STEM) - was hosted by the Martinsburg STARBASE at the 167th Airlift Wing. 

The teachers who attended the workshop as a continuing education course not only got credit through Shepherd University for their efforts, but also learned many of the same lessons taught to fifth-graders who attend the federally-funded STARBASE program during the school year. 

All fifth-graders in Berkeley County attend STARBASE for a week, learning a challenging core curriculum geared toward STEM activities, everything from Newton's Laws of Motion to model rocketry. County-wide, about 1,500 students ages 9 to 11 attend STARBASE during the school year. 

Sherra Triggs, the program director for the Martinsburg STARBASE, said the workshop allows teachers the opportunity to take the principles they have learned and customize them to their own classroom lessons. This in turn allows students as early as first-graders to be exposed to the importance of STEM activities. 

"This workshop shows that you can fit science, technology, engineering and math into any subject matter," Triggs said. "It's a well-rounded workshop program." 

The only limits are the teachers' imaginations, she said. 

Triggs said teachers can bring stories to life by incorporating such skills as math and science to help illustrate a lesson. 

"You can always find a way to talk about math," Triggs said. "If you are innovative enough you can find a way to fit (STEM activities) into anything." 

"Many of my kids come here," said Nicole Krause, a fifth-grade teacher at Orchard View Intermediate School in Martinsburg. 

Krause said her students look forward to attending STARBASE and she was happy to be able to find out firsthand the activities which make the program so popular. 

"They love it," she said, noting that she'll be able to take the lessons she's learned back to her own classroom and teach them throughout the school year. 

Last Friday, Todd I. Ensign, program manager for the Educator Resource Center NASA IV & V Facility based at Fairmont State University, schooled teachers at the workshop on the fine art of using a Global Positioning System. 

Teachers were sent on a mini-field trip outside the walls of the STARBASE Academy to determine the size of the earth using a GPS. Ensign said 40,000 kilometers is the polar circumference of the earth, the magic number the NASA instructor hoped teachers would discover and bring back. 

Holding a GPS in her hand, Erin Sponaugle, a fifth-grade teacher from Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, said the activities offered during the week-long workshop were very interesting and she intended on incorporating them into some of her lesson plans. 

And she wouldn't have to look far if she wanted to borrow some GPSs. 

Under an equipment loan program, the NASA education outreach program can provide free the tools needed for lessons as long as the teachers are trained on them. 

Tracey Parks, a fifth-grade teacher at Tomahawk Intermediate School, said the hands-on activities and other challenges posed by the workshop tested their scientific abilities. 

One activity had the teachers designing a heat shield using wire mesh and aluminum foil to create a thermal protection system for the future Ares spacecraft which is expected to take man back to the moon. 

"We will test their models to failure," Ensign said, explaining how he would take a torch heated to 1,000-degrees Fahrenheit to see which creation could withstand the high temperature which simulated reentry into the earth's atmosphere. 

"Four minutes is the duration of reentry," he said. "We'll heat them up until they glow."
Another NASA-generated activity Friday had teachers designing a thrust structure model for a rocket made from wooden craft sticks. The object was to make the device as light as possible and have it survive three launches. 

"I've had a blast," said Mary Beth Green, a fourth-grade teacher from Orchard View Intermediate School. 

Adding: "This is one of the best workshops I have ever attended."