Mars or Bust ... Well Mojave for Starters!
6 February, 2011
Dr Paula Mills has recently received an opportunity of a lifetime. Paula is the latest in a growing group of Australian Science Teachers who have been selected to attend a NASA Spaceward Bound expedition. Spaceward Bound is an educational program developed at the NASA Ames Research Center in California. The mission of Spaceward Bound is to train the next generation of space explorers by getting teachers to participate in the exploration of scientifically interesting but remote and extreme environments on Earth as analogs for the future human exploration of the Moon and Mars. She will be participating in this event in the Mojave Desert from the 17th to the 21st of April. Paula is currently the Science Curriculum Leader at Prince Alfred College in Adelaide, South Australia and brings over 10 years of secondary and tertiary science classroom experience, currently teaching Physics, Chemistry and Junior Science.
Paula is an active member of the South Australian Science Teachers' Association and a member of the Institute of Physics. Paula is involved with trialling resources for the new Australian Curriculum, she has been involved with a range of activities and presentations in National Science Week and in 2003 she spent a sabbatical year in Antarctica as part of a multi-science team investigating phytoplankton and the environmental conditions in frozen fresh water lakes.
After being informed about her selection as the only Australian Science Teacher on this year's Mojave expedition, Paula comments, "I am thrilled to be the successful Australian candidate and appreciate the opportunity afforded by Mars Society Australia and NASA Spaceward Bound. I am hoping to use the tools and skills I develop on Spaceward Bound to enhance the delivery of our school's Middle Years and Diploma Programme. In particular we have recently included environmental systems and societies as a subject choice and I see any geological information that I gain could really enhance this programme. I would also like to develop a multi-disciplinary fieldwork unit for the year 10 students, this would incorporate the science as an endeavour strand from the new Australian Curriculum and I feel that this expedition will provide essential content and background for these areas."
Paula adds, "Back in November an item in an electronic newsletter caught my eye - If you are a Secondary School Teacher with an interest in earth, planetary and space science, then the Spaceward Bound Mojave 2011 expedition might be just the professional learning for you. I was instantly intrigued and thought that this was certainly what I wanted to be doing next year, and a great way to extend our outstanding reputation for academic performance and endeavours at Prince Alfred College."
MSA Education Director, Mark Gargano adds, "An opportunity to participate in a professional learning exercise such as Spaceward Bound, where a Science Teacher is able to not only network with leading educators from all over the US and indeed the world, but also to participate and conduct research with leading scientists and engineers as they hypothesise and theorise about the really big questions is a tremendously enriching experience. It gives the participant a hands-on approach to conducting field science and to take these skills and newly acquired knowledge back to their classroom, enabling content to be placed into context and what a context, who isn't inspired about the cosmos, our place in the universe and where we come from, ideally prompting the next generation of scientists and engineers to go above and beyond with their science studies."
This is one of many connected opportunities between NASA Spaceward Bound and MSA that has occurred since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in July 2007, which links field training and research and provides access for teachers to this professional development training and the NASA Spaceward Bound Alumni.