Shuttle crew advises teachers Science: Astronauts tell educators that their encouragement can lead students to reach for the stars.

July 15, 1998|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Shuttle astronaut Richard M. Linnehan reminded a group of Maryland's mathematics and science teachers yesterday that the role they play in their students' lives can be pivotal, and that their encouragement can lead to lofty accomplishments.

"You may have someone in your class right now who will go back to the moon, or if you're an elementary teacher, someone who will even go to Mars," said Linnehan. "You are the ones who are going to make a difference."

He and five other astronauts from NASA's recent Neurolab mission spoke to about 130 teachers at the Governor's Academy for Science and Mathematics at Towson University yesterday. Linnehan, 40, said his elementary teachers had taught him the importance of "the three Rs" and high school and college mentors had led him to study science and medicine and to become a veterinarian before joining the space program.

"Individual people have a great influence on those who are coming up. We lose sight of that," said Linnehan, who lived in Lutherville in the late 1980s, while doing an internship in animal pathology at the Johns Hopkins University and Baltimore Zoo.

Two physicians were also among the crew on the 16-day mission that took more than 2,000 animals -- 1,500 crickets among them -- into space to study brain and nervous system functions in a gravity-free atmosphere. All but one member of the Neurolab crew came to Towson, which co-sponsors the academy.

During their 90-minute appearance, the astronauts narrated a video of their voyage, completed in early May. They posed for pictures and answered questions: How does it feel when you're taking off? How do you go to the bathroom in space? What were the best and worst parts of the trip?

The teachers, from 57 schools across the state, greeted the shuttle crew with applause and were eager for photos and autographs of crew members.

Those photos will be an important teaching tool, come September, when teachers use them as a way to introduce and enliven their lessons, said Gary Heath, who coordinates the academy for the Maryland State Department of Education.

Such encouragement also stimulates the teachers. "Their vision of the future gets changed when they hear the astronauts talking about the future," said Heath. "It would be wonderful if this kind of stimulation were available for all teachers."

In its 10th year, the academy is designed to improve instruction and student achievement in math and science. Teachers from kindergarten through 12th grade apply for the three-week program, during which they work on classroom activities that they will use during the next school year.

Teachers receive a $1,000 stipend and nine credits for attending. They also receive equipment for their schools, said Heath.

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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