Promoting Science In Classrooms And The Stratosphere

Workshop Aims To Keep U.s. No. 1 In Aviation

March 16, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

The teachers came to the seminar, built rockets, launched hot air balloons and listened to officials who told them the United States is still No. 1 in aviation technology.

They left with the message thatmath and science disciplines are being shortchanged in the classroom.

The "Take It To The Top" workshop, held Saturday at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, attracted teachers interested in innovative ways to explain the science of space and flight to their students.

"There are a couple of areas where America is still No. 1, andone of them is aviation flight," state Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer told the 150 teachers assembled from throughout Maryland. "To enhance that status, it will be in the hands of all as educators."

Nancy Grasmick, state superintendent of schools, reminded the teachers from the start that more needs to be done to instill the importance of technical-related fields in youngsters.

She said that less than 1 percent of all high school students in Maryland go on to careers in math, and less than 4 percent continue in science.

"That's not a statistic that in any way we can take pride in," Grasmicksaid. "The kind of exposure you have here will make a difference."

The teachers were exposed to plenty of science Saturday. Seminars on everything from satellite weather stations to planning for a futurespace mission launched the students-for-a-day head-on into the worldof flight.

Some groups built model rockets, while others studied gliders. The group with the most fun, however, was the one building hot air balloons out of tissue paper.

The 9-foot-high balloons, filled with hot air from a Coleman stove, sailed to the top of the three-story atrium at the Maryland Department of Transportation headquarters at the airport.

Some went even farther. John Van Oosten, a teacher at Elkridge Elementary School, had the luck of showing off his group's balloon for a video camera before he was to launch it in front of the rest of the teachers.

But the atrium roof was slightly ajar, and the balloon was sucked out through the hole as it started to deflate. It sailed along treetops by the side of the road and crashed into a tree near Route 170, a quarter-mile away.

"It had a 4- to 5-inch rip in it," Van Oosten said. "It went quite well."

He and other teachers said they planned to have their classes build balloons ormodel rockets.

Martha Cole, who teaches students with learning disabilities at the Ridgely School in Timonium, said she couldn't wait to start the program in her classroom.

"This would be a real kick for them," she said. "We could get the whole school out to watch the ascension."

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