Summers aren't just for vacations. Some of our staff have been pursuing academic studies and even once-in-a-lifetime opportunities; for Melissa Erickson, who teaches Physics, Earth, and Planetary Science at John Marshall High School, that was NASA.
Back in May, we talked to John Marshall's Melissa Erickson, one of two teachers from Minnesota selected for the LiftOff 2022 space program developed by NASA. The program, focused on the Artemis project, aims to send American astronauts, including the first woman and the first person of color, to the Moon by 2024. Now that she's back, how did it go?
During her week at NASA, Melissa had a jam-packed schedule filled with various speakers and tours, including the Neutral Buoyancy Lab, seeing Lunar rocks, and participating in projects. She couldn't pick a favorite moment out of the experience, but in Melissa's words, her "soul-speaking moment" was visiting the Neutral Buoyancy Lab. As a long-time scuba instructor, science teacher, and space enthusiast, this lab simulated all three experiences in one place.
This prestigious opportunity also allowed Melissa and 50 other teachers from around the nation to meet with various affiliated NASA staff members, including three astronauts. One of the three astronauts she met was 88-year-old Fred Haise, from the Apollo 13 space mission. How many people have been able to hear someone share stories from space? That's out of this world!
"If able, I think it is so beneficial for educators to have experiences that help students connect with what they are learning," Melissa said. "To experience NASA and this program firsthand was such an honor. They create opportunities for you that are unique. We got a lot of inside tours that aren't usually allowed, but because of who they are and NASA's love for education and reaching youth, it was amazing. Go apply. "
Besides a memorable experience, Melissa is bringing back some of the curriculum collaboration and lesson plans shared by fellow teachers and NASA scientists. She plans to implement many new ideas in her classroom and share them with the John Marshall physics department and potentially across the district. When thinking about her classroom, Melissa hopes her experience at NASA helps create a real-world perspective with her projects and allows students to connect personally rather than hypothetically.
So what's next for Melissa? Almost immediately after her trip, she went to get supplies for a prototype rocket and rocket launchers for her and her students to make rockets in the upcoming school year. We're sure great things will come out of her classroom this year, and this is just the launch pad for jumping into the 2022-2023 school year.