Prepare For “LiftOff” 2018

Juliana Berry at NASA


By Juliana Berry

Besides it being some of the best professional development (PD) I have ever done here is some information along with my experience.

Beginning in the summer of 1990, NASA’s Texas Space Grant Consortium initiated a week-long professional development training for teachers. This aerospace workshop, called LiftOff, emphasizes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning experiences by incorporating a space science theme supported by NASA missions. Teacher participants are provided with information and experiences through speakers, hands-on activities and field investigations that promote space science and enrichment activities for themselves and others.

I applied this year and got it. I traveled to Houston, Texas for a week-long summer institute with an emphasis on Space and STEM. Once, I arrived and I hit the floor running. We met at the hotel and bused to Kemah Aquarium where we had a MARS escape room activity and our first guest speaker Astronaut Clayton Anderson who has retired and now authors books. He shared his experiences and discussed his new books.

Monday: We learned about Human Space Flight Past, Present, and Future: What’s going on at MARS and satellite that are orbiting Jupiter and exploring other planets. We also learned about a FREE software program called NASA EYES from Jet Propulsion Lab. This software will provide real-time information on our solar system, satellites, and all other objects. Lastly, Fred Haise Apollo 13 pilot came and discussed with us his journey to, during, after NASA.

Tuesday: Mars dust, different comets, current missions to Mars and asteroids along with opportunities NASA JSC has for educators and students through,,, and for webinars, STEM and other lessons and activities.

Wednesday: We had teacher presentations. Each teacher is required to upload and present 1 science lesson and present to the group. There were lessons from every aspect of science from early childhood sound activities to secondary physics and chemistry. Each teacher is given a copy of all lessons and activities at the end of the week.

Thursday-Friday: We went to NASA modulation lab where different modules from Soyuz how astronauts travel to ISS, Orion space module, Valkyrie robot, 1960s mission control and current mission control, Neutral Buoyancy Lab where astronauts train, hands-on meteorites and comets, information from each specialized field from NASA from space suits, geology, computer programming, life support, robotics, and many different engineers. We also met Norman Chaffee, Chemical Engineer and rocket scientist who design rocket propulsions on the side of Apollo mission and lastly a lecture from some of the first female astronauts Dr. Shannon Lucid, Dr. Rhea Sheddon, and Dr. Anna Fisher.

Overall, this experience has changed my life and my invigorated my passion for science and has been the best professional development I have attended thus far in my career. I encourage and ask each and every teacher to apply each year for Summer institute LIFTOFF and sign up for educator newsletter from website. This institute created a network of teachers that I am currently working with from all over the US planning activities we can share with each other this school year. APPLY next YEAR!

Article Categories: Events, STEM Careers, Teacher Perspectives