Last week the 9th ESA Summer Teacher Workshop took place at ESA’s Science and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands. Over 4 days, fifty European teachers were immersed in practical sessions, visited the ESTEC technical facilities and were enthused by inspirational keynote lectures given by ESA’s astronaut Paolo Nespoli and esteemed ESA’s experts. Teachers also had the opportunity to share their innovative school projects with their fellow participants. The workshop provided the primary and secondary teachers with tools and classroom activities that use space as an inspiring context for teaching and learning STEM. The activities focused on different space themes:
Exploring the Moon
For one day, teachers became Moon explorers and faced some of the challenges future astronauts may encounter. Teachers built a lunar landing module, constructed their own Moon shelter, extracted water from “icy lunar cores” and produced hydrogen and oxygen from water. Participants also learned about the importance of robotics for the future exploration and exploitation of space. At the end of the day the keynote speaker, James Carpenter, Strategy Officer from the Directorate of Human Spaceflight and Robotic Exploration, took the participants on a journey to the Moon.
Day 2 kicked off with an inspirational lecture about new technologies for future space exploration, given by Tommaso Ghidini, Head of Structures, Mechanisms and Materials in the Directorate of Technology Engineering and Quality. Afterwards teachers had the opportunity to visit ESTEC Test Centre and the Erasmus Space Exhibition Centre. In the practical sessions that followed, teachers explored some examples of how to use technology and programming to teach STEM concepts making use of Astro Pi computers, Arduinos, and LEGO WeDo.
On the third day of the workshop, teachers observed the Earth from high above using satellites. Malcolm Davidson, Head of the Campaigns Section in the Directorate of Earth Observation started the day with a crash course in Earth Observation (EO) introducing the main concepts of remote sensing and ESA’s EO missions. During the practical sessions, teachers took the pulse of our planet by monitoring weather and climate using satellite data.
Solar System Exploration
In the afternoon of the third day teachers travelled to Mercury with Joe Zender, Project scientist from the Directorate of Science. During the talk teachers learned about BepiColombo, Europe’s upcoming mission to Mercury, a joint endeavour between ESA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). At the end of the day teachers were introduced to ESA’s Spacecraft Materials Kit, a comprehensive educational resource developed to investigate which materials and properties are best suited to build a spacecraft.
Life in Space
During the last day of the workshop, teachers discovered what it is like to live in space with ESA’s astronaut Paolo Nespoli and learned about the training process astronauts go through before flying to the International Space Station (ISS). In the practical session, teachers explored some of the different sensations astronauts experience on board the ISS. They also investigated what astronauts eat when they are in space and how food is packaged to survive a trip to space. The workshop ended with a visit to the Space Expo museum in Noordwijk.
The practical sessions were delivered by ESA’s Education team and ESERO staff from across Europe.
At the end of the workshop teachers returned home with inspirational ideas and full of enthusiasm to share the knowledge they acquired. “This workshop was a beautiful opportunity to exchange experiences with colleagues of other nationalities. It was excellent for our personal evolution, to enrich our knowledge and to enhance our teaching” commented one of the participants.
If you are a teacher and interested in participating in ESA teacher trainings, check the current opportunities at the ESA Education website.