To give all children the opportunity for a quality education, NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., recently hosted the Greene Scholars Program (GSP), an education program for African American students to develop leadership skills emphasizing science and mathematics. This summer, the program focused on learning about NASA and its missions.
Many agree that the path to the "American Dream" is predicated on knowledge and education. To give every child access to a competitive education, NASA recently hosted 30 elementary school students from the Dr. Frank S. Greene Scholars Program Summer Science Institute. While at Ames, these young students participated in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) enrichment program, where they met NASA scientists and professionals, conducted research, and visited national research laboratories to introduce them to human space exploration and life sciences research.
"To compete in today's global economy, we need to up our game," said Lewis Braxton, III, deputy director of NASA Ames. "That's why NASA is working with the Greene Scholars Program, to put an outstanding education within reach of every child."
Throughout the week, students were challenged by new experiences in previously unexplored environments. The first day, students set up an experiment to investigate plant behavior, called "geotropism," that helped them visualize the scientific reasoning behind answers to questions, such as "How do plants know which way to grow?" Each morning, students assembled in the NASA Ames Exploration Encounter (AEE), a supersonic wind tunnel since converted into an education facility. Here, they observed their plant specimens and recorded results of their experiment.
An important part of the learning experience at the AEE is the hands-on activities that are designed to make math and science curricula come alive for students. They experience science in action and see how it is a part of their lives. In addition, students were shown exhibits and taken on tours by NASA staff. Tours included the NASA Advanced Supercomputers (NAS) facility, one of the largest supercomputers in the world, and the Vertical Motion Simulator (VMS), which also is the largest in the world. The VMS can simulate any aerospace vehicle, while reproducing its flight characteristics with a high degree of accuracy. The Space Shuttle Program used it to train the astronauts to land the space shuttle.
According to GSP Director Gloria Whitaker-Daniels, each day's ride home was filled with the chatter of students sharing their day's experience. Parents expressed amazement at hearing their children talk in detail about their experiences at NASA.
The GSP is closing the achievement gap: Its academic achievement results show that all students who have completed the program pass the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE). They also meet the University of California's 'A-G' requirements for college admission, and graduate from high school. These achievements are due in part to the families' participation in the program.
The Greene Scholars Program was founded in 2002 by Debra Watkins, former president of the Santa Clara County Alliance of Black Educators, to help youth of African ancestry successfully complete higher STEM education and serve as positive role models and contributors to their communities. The program is named after Frank S. Greene Jr., a pioneering scientist who was one of the Bay Area's first African American venture capitalists. As a long-term K-12 initiative, the Greene Scholars Program is designed to provide 21st century leaders with strong science/mathematics backgrounds coupled with innovation, entrepreneurial/leadership and problem solving skills.
The NASA, Greene Scholars partnership supports a long-term K-12 initiative that nurtures students from underserved and underrepresented communities by providing mentoring, leadership training, STEM enrichment, academic planning, and parental education and involvement.
"The young people in the Greene Scholar Program give us hope that the future of our country will be in good hands," said Braxton.
For more information about the Greene Scholars Program, see: http://www.greenescholars.org/
For more information about Ames Exploration Encounter, see: http://encounter.arc.nasa.gov/aero.html
For more information about NASA's Ames, see: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ames/