The Urban Nest


Catch up–I started this one in January…

This post, written by NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen, really hit home with me (pun unavoidable). Like Dr. Zurbuchen, I’ve lived many places and consider myself fortunate to have had these experiences, these different homes.  Albuquerque, St. Paul, New Orleans, Louisville, Bloomington (IN), Honolulu*, Nyack* (NY), St. Paul*, Albuquerque (*several were also temporary; 3-12 months). Most recently, and for the longest at 16 years, Portland, OR.

My apartment is lovely, sunny, spacious, and has really affordable parking. It’s an easy walk to the metro, and there’s a Whole Foods just across the street. My south-facing windows act as passive solar (no need for heat all winter!), and I experience an odd disconnect from life on the ground (the trees stop by the third floor or so). I’m as settled as I will be here–which is mostly, but not quite. I call my DC apartment The Urban Nest, perched as I am on the 21st floor. And I call it that because I just quite cannot call it “home.”

As far as living place goes what’s holding me back from that settled feeling is primarily environmental…the lack of green space, the traffic noise around me, nighttime light…As far as my own mindset that this is all temporary, well that’s a product of the fellowship situation–11 months, no extensions.

Soon enough though, I’m confident I’ll be referring fondly back to my days in The Urban Nest, my DC home. This place and space having anchored their way into my cellular memory, as have all those other places.


HOLA Program at NASA Headquarters


Catch up– started in mid-October…

The Hispanic Outreach and Leadership Alliance (HOLA) at NASA Headquarters organized an amazing presentation in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and I was able to sit in, along with the invited audience–several classes of middle and high school students from the Washington, DC area. While this was back in October, I’m struck by how this event has stuck with me.

The featured speakers were Diana Trujillo from the Jet Propulsion Lab and Jose M. Hernandez, a former astronaut. NASA Administrator (at the time), Gen. Charlie Bolden gave a video welcome and Donald James,  Associate Administrator for Education (at the time), shared a number of NASA resources for students after a great question and answer session.

Ms. Trujillo was completely inspiring. She introduced herself saying this, “My name is Diana Trujillo and my job is to explore space.” About her work on the Curiosity Rover Team she commented, “My team and I are among the first humans to see another planet.” And, about pursuing her dream to work at NASA: “My parents thought I was setting myself up for a path of disappointment.” Seems to me her parents must be pretty proud, and that no one is in the least disappointed!

Astronaut Hernandez told us about his father’s Recipe for Success:

  • Identify your goal
  • Figure out the distance between you and your goal (What are the requirements?)
  • Develop a roadmap to go the distance (How far are you from where you want to be?)
  • Stick with the necessary education
  • Maintain a strong work ethic

What stuck with me was the suggestion to, after identifying your goal and while on the roadmap, to identify others in the place or role you want to be and to study them.

Much to my pleasure, Diana closed by talking about Daring Mighty Things saying, “…it [what ever your passion] is all worth doing.” Even  given challenges and obstacles, “they are things we can achieve. And, different backgrounds help us to think outside the box.” Here, here! Dare on!


Climate Change Resources from NOAA


Catch up—started in mid-October…

Back at the start of October, a couple of us fellows had the opportunity participate in a meeting of the National Academies of Sciences Teacher Advisory Council. The conversation at this meeting addressed two areas:  engineering and STEM education–particularly supporting pre-service education and educators, and supporting science teachers in teaching climate change.

Bruce Moravchik and June Teisan (AEF alumna) from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) shared a number of excellent resources for educators. Here are June’s favorites:

I’m looking forward to our fellowship visit to NOAA later this month!

Storytelling: The Moon and More


Telling your story has become a theme in my AEF/NASA experience so far. I’m working on a project called Success Stories with the HQ Office of Education; I’m sharing my story in this blog; and just the other day I had the opportunity to join the Goddard community in celebrating the success to date of the James Webb telescope. There NASA’s Administrator, Charlie Bolden, spoke about the importance of communicating your individual story as an essential element of a successful team and in order to share the amazing accomplishments of the work done at Goddard, and indeed at each NASA center.

So, here is a wonderful video put out by Goddard in collaboration with Javier Colon and Matt Cusson titled “The Moon and More.” There’s story in both the lyrics and in the images.

This is truly a lovely, and highly inspiring, four minutes!

This image, in many ways, sums up the whole story of the video.

The Golden Goose Award


Held at the Library of Congress back in September, The Golden Goose Award is an annual celebration of science for science’s sake. Golden Goose awardees are scientists whose federally-funded research while initially understood as irrelevant, quirky even, have led to unexpected and important discoveries.

Honored this year were the remarkable scientists of following studies: The Honey Bee Algorithm, The Adolescent Health Story, and The Sex Life of the Screwworm Fly.


After the presentation of the awards and a panel conversation with the awardees, there was the opportunity to visit with the scientists in the Library’s Great Hall. All of the scientists I had the chance to speak with were excited to talk about their work and lives. An interesting, consistent comment from many of the scientists was their experience of rejection and how necessary it was to not take that rejection as an affront to their personal and professional selves. Several also spoke of the necessity of perseverance (such as in the face of rejection or when working on long tedious projects) and finding support from peers, friend, and family.


Starting Up, again…


That’s right! New adventures, friends!

thanksgiving-2012-nsta-049This year I am serving as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow (AEF) supporting the Offices of Education at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA Headquarters. While sharing my experiences with AEF and NASA, everything here is my own content, views, opinions, thoughts, musings, perceptions…you get the gist, not those of the AEF program, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, or any other government agency.


When I first learned of AEF is fuzzy…it’s been mulling around in my consciousness for a while now. AEF solidified as a real possibility at the 2012 National Science Teachers Association regional conference in Phoenix, AZ where I’d met up with some Team Kennedy friends to present some of our activities and to hear Eileen Collins speak. In the exhibit hall the AEF group had a life-sized cut out of Albert Einstein for a fun photo op. NASA was one of the cooperating agencies, and of course that peaked my interest!




I submitted my application last November and was honored to be selected as a semi-finalist. After an amazing experience at the February 2016 interview weekend, I settled in for the long wait to hear if I’d been offered a Fellowship position, and then the even longer wait for the public announcement. Long story short, I am on leave from my position as Science Teacher on Special Assignment with Portland (OR) Public Schools here in DC with an amazing group of fellow Fellows.

Great Teams, Part 2: Another Pamper Pole Lesson

Great Teams, Part 2: Another Pamper Pole Lesson

Sometimes on a team you feel let down. YOU miss an opportunity. You let people down. Or, others do. There are highs and lows; you know, that proverbial emotional roller-coaster.  In this case I feel that I may have let a few of my other TK compadres down.  I didn’t rally. I let other things get in the way. And I’ve learned from that. So, Onward. Back to the Pamper Pole for me.

Great Teams, Part 1: SCORE! (or Suuunnnnn’s Baaalllllll!)

Great Teams, Part 1: SCORE!     (or Suuunnnnn’s Baaalllllll!)

You know when you’re part of a great team and when you’re on the sidelines and someone else makes a big score and it doesn’t really matter who scored and it just feels great for everyone? That’s what happened to me today when 6 of (Yes, SIX!) Team Kennedy were notified today that they’d been selected to fly a student experiment on NASA’s Weightless Wonder.


Flight Day! 069

Can’t wait to see what interesting outreach items will fly with TK!

Thoughts on the NGSS


“If you take a quick look at the NGSS Draft  you’ll quickly see that Common Core ELA and Math AND Relevance and Rigor are all part of the plan.”

“Science is your informational text.”

I didn’t say what I really thought, which is this: Science is the gateway class.

Getting hooked on Science leads to all sorts of reading and math and learning stuff. And then you want to tell everyone about this cool thing that is now part of your experience, so you communicate. You update your Facebook or send an email with all the juicy details of erosion. You call your Grandma to tell her (teach her) about your cool, cool science. You write. You engage in public speaking. You are in the real world and relevant.

It’s not clear what my state will do with the NGSS, which honestly is why I didn’t speak up to the crowd of math and ELA folk who are completely focused on getting the word out about Common Core. I’m happy to support them now as I know my day will come and Common Core ELA and Math will have paved the way.

I can imagine a classroom where students and teachers reflect on each activity as it connects to the seven Crosscutting Concepts and the Understandings about the Nature of Science. I can imagine teachers coming out of their rooms to gather and talk and plan as they encounter the huge professional shift in thinking that NGSS will bring about. The structure of making the ‘How’ rather than the ‘What’ the primary focus is radical!

Just a few more days to review the draft! Comments close on the 29th.