Teacher nets space-age equipment for her students

August 30, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Computers have arrived at Sykesville Middle School from Goddard Space Flight Center. The county's only "earth and environmental science teacher ambassador" piloted the high-tech equipment to her classroom.

Karen K. Gurley greeted her eighth-grade students yesterday with the newest in computer classroom equipment.

The Power MacIntosh monitor and printer were gifts from the space center in Greenbelt to the 24 teachers who participated in studies there this summer.

"I brought all the equipment here with me from Goddard," she said of the gear on her desk.

An earth science teacher at the South Carroll school for seven years, Ms. Gurley said she knows the value of technology in the classroom.

"Technology provides a greater opportunity to excite kids and get them turned on to science," she said. "That is what we are about, and it's good to expose kids to technology early on."

Ms. Gurley, 29, was Carroll's only representative among the 24 teachers -- one from each county and Baltimore City -- to participate in the intensive four-week program, which delved into space and geology. Lectures, computer training, labs and field trips filled the eight-hour sessions.

"The lectures gave teachers an idea of what scientists go through and gave us a real feel for background information," Ms. Gurley said.

"We learned use of the Internet [computer system] at Goddard and classroom applications for the computers."

Participants each received about $10,000 in training and equipment for their classrooms, she said.

The center also contributed $600 to install a phone line in the Sykesville school lab.

The hookup will allow "ambassadors" and students to communicate and share information.

Ms. Gurley is sure her students will take to the equipment right away.

"Kids enjoy anything they can do with a computer," she said.

"This one will help get them excited about science. They will be able to communicate with other students, too."

"Ambassadors" will also have the chance for interschool communication.

"We can exchange data with others in the ambassador program," she said.

"This will really help with things like ozone monitoring and water budget data."

To ensure the equipment is put to good use, Goddard assigned each participant an adviser to follow up with its teacher-ambassadors and help with glitches in the program. Ms. Gurley can call on James Foster, a geologist and lecturer at Goddard.

"We can contact our adviser anytime during the school year," she said.

"Mr. Foster has said he will come out and talk to my students."

The space center also included several CD ROM programs, which promise students "a multimedia tour of science subjects" and "fun and easy exploration of earth science topics."

GeoMedia, an education system produced by the U.S. Geological Survey, provides text and colorful visuals on earth topics.

The CDs are so bright and flashy, Ms. Gurley believes they will attract students.

"Most kids have access to computers at home," she said. "The CDs are the same size as the ones they put on a stereo. Some children won't have to train as long in their use."

Goddard provided LCDs, liquid crystal displays, which allow the teacher to take images from the computer and project them on overheads for the whole class to see.

Ms. Gurley said she hoped all science teachers eventually would have similar equipment.

For the most interested students, Ms. Gurley said, she may organize an after-school workshop devoted to "things we don't have time for in class."

The Goddard program was not all high-tech. As part of their geology studies at University of Maryland College Park, ambassadors took several field trips to Washington, where they investigated faults and the effect of weather on monuments.

"It's amazing that there is an actual fault close to the National Zoo," Ms. Gurley said. "We also looked at the building stones to see how they have weathered and possibly how long they will last."

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