Live From...the Stratosphere
The FOSTER Teacher Program


(This text was originally written by Allan Meyer and Terry Duncan on 03-May-95)

Science teachers are flying on board the KAO for first-hand experiences in scientific research as a part of the Flight Opportunities for Science Teacher EnRichment (FOSTER) project, a pre-college teacher enrichment project at NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute supported by a grant from Astrophysics Division, NASA Headquarters. Through the unique capabilities of the KAO, teachers experience cutting-edge scientific research and the discovery process on overnight astronomical research missions. Science on board the KAO involves many disciplines: astrophysics and astronomy, planetary sciences, atmospheric sciences, aeronautics, physics, chemistry and mathematics.

To prepare for their flights, teachers participate in an intensive summer workshop at NASA Ames. The workshop includes lectures, lessons, tours and activities related to modern astrophysics and airborne astronomy. More than forty NASA scientists, engineers, pilots and educators meet with teachers during each of the summer workshops. The teachers investigate curriculum materials and activities available through NASA, and try out new lessons to bring their FOSTER experiences to the classroom. In addition, they learn to access Internet and, if needed, are provided with email accounts through NASA's K-12 Internet Project at Ames. These outreach activities have contacted over 12,000 students in the past two years.

For 1994, the teacher's overall rating for the workshop was 4.7 on a scale of 5 - they gave airborne astronomy and FOSTER an A! Comments included: 'This was a fantastic program and very worthwhile....Projects like this give teachers the rare opportunity to interact with colleagues as well as with scientists and specialists in the field of astronomy and physics. Please keep up the support for the program! It's great!'

FOSTER began in September 1992 as a pilot program and so far has twenty-two teams of teachers (45 teachers) from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. To date, fourteen teams have boarded KAO flights with research teams from around the United States and Europe. The remaining teams will be hosted on KAO research flights in the spring of 1995. Over thirty articles featuring teacher involvement in airborne astronomy have appeared in newspapers and magazines.

What is the impact on teachers? After his flight, Glen Kimoto, a California middle school teacher wrote, 'Marvelous interactions with cutting-edge scientists! A once-in-a lifetime opportunity...the closest thing to space flight for scientists and teachers!' Pauline Higa, a Hawaiian high school teacher, said, 'This...was really rewarding because the NASA people made us, teachers, feel important....Best of all was the sharing of ideas, the networking and connections I made.' And, Kim Fanter, a California elementary teacher, said 'I have never had a more intensive, challenging, yet interesting learning experience in my life.'

For summer, 1995, the FOSTER program is recruiting teacher teams from the communities of Principal and Guest Investigators, and from the eleven western states served by the NASA Ames Educational Programs Office. Applications will be available in January and are due March 15, 1995. The workshop is July 5-14, and the FOSTER '95 teachers will join flights from Ames and Hickam AFB during July, August and September. For further information, contact: edna_devore@seti-inst.edu or call (415) 960-4538.

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