The program will focus on math and science education.
By JOSH ECHT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The 400-plus pupils at Hillman Middle School are too young to land on the moon, fly the Space Shuttle or battle zero-gravity forces.
They are not too young, however, to participate in a three-year educational program sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA recently named Hillman Middle School a 2005 NASA Explorer School, one of 50 schools chosen across the United States.
"The program will focus on math and science education," said math teacher Phyllis Peterson. "Students and teachers will work with NASA educators for three years."
NASA specialists will host weekly videoconferences, provide course materials and help teachers plan activities such as the NASA Explorer Challenge, which deals with gravity and moon landings.
Pupils will also learn how to properly graph, interpret and present reports of data they have collected.
"We looked around at other schools for ideas," Peterson said. "Our school will also reach out to the community and parents for support."
More than 260 schools nationwide applied for the program, which accepts schools based on poverty rate and monetary need.
Hillman received $17,500 in grants, Peterson said.
A team of four to six teachers and administrators runs the program. Assistant Principal Timothy Kelty functions as the team administrator, and will oversee the entire team and review the curriculum.
"Several area schools will make up 'Hillman Team,'" Kelty said. "Students and teachers will participate in specific groups."
Impact on pupils
The number of pupils participating will be determined based on teachers' decisions to incorporate NASA into their lesson plan.
"Most of the students are excited at being chosen for this," Peterson said. "Some of them saw the NASA announcement on TV."
Hillman science teacher Martha Taylor said she was enthusiastic about the project because it will integrate science and math and make those subjects relevant to pupils.
"It will be a good application of science into students' daily lives," Taylor said. She said future projects include incorporating a science fair into the program.
Initially, the team will schedule the project for two days a week. If parental and community involvement increases, more time will be allotted to the program, Peterson said.
The team travels to Lewis Research Center in Cleveland July 16 to show NASA the school's plan to implement the NASA ideas into its curriculum.
After two years, the school will show the community its work put into the program and results.
Hillman will then ask for continuing support because the NASA grant expires after the third year.
"We hope to gain support at that time based on our accomplishments," Taylor said.