Attending a NASA Social Can Help You Become a Better Educator

By Dr. Angela Gibson
Professor, School of Arts and Humanities at American Public University

Ongoing professional development is a need for every educator. It can be formal in structure, such as a webinar, workshop, or certificate program, or may be leveraged through informal and atypical opportunities.

One program that may not immediately seem connected to improving course quality and instructional effectiveness is the NASA Social program. A NASA Social “is a program to provide opportunities for NASA’s social media followers to learn and share information about NASA’s missions, people, and programs” (About NASA Social, 2014). Before you think “But I don’t teach space!” and stop reading, consider the following applications.

In June of 2013 NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas sponsored an opportunity for NASA Social participants to learn about astronaut health, fitness, and rehabilitation. In addition to becoming aware of the requirements for astronauts to train in physical fitness on ground and on the International Space Station, orbiting 240 miles above the Earth at more than 17,000 miles per hour, attendees were able to ask questions of and interact with the training team supporting astronaut crew fitness.

Further, those selected for the event toured the facility, examined equipment, and discussed current and future scientific experiments concerning health, fitness, and the study of the effects of a weightless environment on the human body. Participants learned what it takes to train like an astronaut and collected video, pictures, and behind the scenes information for students in the field of exercise and sports management, nursing, health sciences and biology, and engineering.

Compelling Images to Tell Stories

Artists, photographers, graphic designers, and photo journalists as well as those interested in social media and image capture registered for and attended the NASA Unfiltered event. This was the first photo NASA Social at the NASA Goddard Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Supporting the educational outreach for the launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, this event showcased how every picture truly tells a story.

Through international cooperation, the GPM mission Core Observatory was built to provide global observations of rain and snow. Individuals participating in the event were provided with opportunities to discuss the mission, imagery, international partnering, and intended uses of captured data with scientists, engineers, and specialists. Additionally, as a NASA Social participant, attendees utilized social media accounts and/or camera equipment to capture their own images to share personally, professionally, and globally. Educators could share with students the connection between art and science or even use social media to convey large ideas or investigating a story through images.

Applications for curriculum and instruction are endless!

Teaching Art

Art teachers can introduce students to Mars as Art, attend the launch of the Mars Rover Curiosity, or be part of the landing event for the SUV sized science laboratory and rover on Mars.

Mars as Art Image from NASA

Mars as Art – Image from NASA

More Cross Curricular Applications

Work with students in emergency and disaster management, fire science management, environmental technology, fish and wildlife management, and/or environmental science? Learn first-hand about NASA’s major airborne field campaign as part of a mission of study by the SEAC4RS team. Are mechanics, project planning, teams, logistics, and materials more your focus? Interact with and observe the teams at the Great Moonbuggy Race now in its 20th year.

Professional development and curriculum enrichment opportunities abound. If you are an instructor or curriculum designer for communication, technology, or journalism, or want to learn how to leverage social media to better engage learners, register to attend any NASA Social. Or, connect yourself, your learning content, and your students and engage in holistic, cross-disciplinary, and global thinking by following an upcoming NASA Social event through one or more of the NASA Social Media accounts. The possibilities are as endless as the stars in our universe!


Dr. Gibson at the NASA Social for the Orion Station Recovery Test at NASA Langley Research Center and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

Dr. Gibson at the NASA Social for the Orion Station Recovery Test at NASA Langley Research Center and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia.

About the Author

Dr. Angela M. Gibson serves as full-time faculty with the rank of Professor for the School of Arts and Humanities at American Public University teaching first-year students in Foundations of Online Learning, undergraduate students in capstone courses, and graduate students in analytical and writing classes. Formerly she served as the Director, First Year Experience, at APUS developing initiatives and programs to foster online learning success, promoting student engagement, and increasing student retention. Previously she worked as an Instructional Strategist with the Instructional Design and Development Team at APUS. She is a recipient of the Online Learning Consortium (formerly Sloan Consortium) 2014 Effective Practice Award.




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