2012-03-09 / Front Page

Teachers defy gravity

By Cathy Cobbs


Tammy Lundy, Denise Duke, and Becky Steurrys float through the air as part of NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. Tammy Lundy, Denise Duke, and Becky Steurrys float through the air as part of NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program. Three teachers from Forest Lake Elementary have just returned from a five- day, gravity- defying experience.

Educators Denise Duke, Tammy Lundy and Becky Steurrys were one of 14 teams selected to travel to the Johnson Space Center in Houston in early February to participate in NASA’s Reduced Gravity Education Flight Program, which was provided by the agency’s Explorer Schools program.

The teams performed scientific investigations aboard a modified aircraft that produces weightlessness for approximately 20 seconds at a time by executing a series of steep climbs, followed by a free fall, over the Gulf of Mexico. During the free falls, the participants were able to gather data in the unique environment and experience nearweightlessness.

“This was an amazing experience,” said Duke. “It reflected a lot of hard work by both the teachers and the students who replicated the experiments in the classroom.”


Tammy Lundy; Denise Duke; Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, NASA astronaut; and Becky Steurrys. Tammy Lundy; Denise Duke; Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, NASA astronaut; and Becky Steurrys. “We are excited that our program provides oncein a-lifetime opportunities to inspire the teachers of budding scientists and engineers.

Through collaborative planning and teamwork, they gain useful skills that they can share with their students,” said Doug Goforth, RGEFP Manager in a press release provided by NASA.

NASA Explorer Schools invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics educators to inspire and engage future scientists, engineers, and technicians that NASA needs to continue the space exploration journey, according to the press release. The program gives fourth through 12 grade educators access to NASA’s people, missions, research, and facilities and provides a comprehensive set of free classroom materials to help educators teach dozen of STEM concepts.

Duke said she and her fellow teachers have enjoyed sharing the experiences with others, and an added bonus was meeting several people who were integral to the space program. The trio got to rub elbows with Dottie MetCalf-Lindenburger, a NASA astronaut who served as a mission specialist on a 2010 space shuttle mission to the International Space Station. She was the first Space Camp alumna to be chosen for the astronaut program.

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