$2.6 Million Federal Earmarks to Extend Statewide Impact of NASA Education Program at Southeast

Thanks to $1.5 million in federal earmarks secured with the assistance of U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond and announced last week, the NASA Educator Resource Center (ERC) at Southeast Missouri State University will broaden its outreach in Missouri through the establishment of a statewide network this year.

That federal money, in combination with an additional $1.1 million ear

Mar. secured for the project last year by Bond, will pave the way for a NASA ERC Resource Agent Network that will extend the resources and training presently provided by the NASA ERC in Cape Girardeau to five additional sites – St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City, Springfield, and one other city to be named later.

The NASA Educator Resource Center, located at 222 N. Pacific in Cape Girardeau, makes available to K-12 schools, teachers and students throughout Missouri a wide variety of free educational and instructional materials related to science, mathematics and technology education. Teachers, students and the public may visit the ERC or request materials via the ERC’s toll-free number or through its Web site. The Center also provides presentations, teacher-training programs and student-centered activities both on-campus and at regional school sites.

“Students and parents in Missouri owe Senator Bond a great deal of gratitude,” said Dr. Ernest Kern, director of the NASA ERC Program at Southeast. “More than most, he is aware that we are now living in a world society that is becoming increasingly technology-based and science-oriented. His vision is to prepare Missouri students to face that future. Not that Senator Bond or those of us in the NASA Education Program believe every student will become a scientist or a mathematician or a technologist. While some will, the primary objective is to provide all students with a background and exposure that will allow them to live and function successfully in that future,” Kern said.

Kenneth W. Dobbins, president of Southeast Missouri State University, said, “Senator Bond has repeatedly secured the funding necessary to boost the efforts of the NASA Educator Resource Center at Southeast. On behalf of the University community, I would like to extend our sincere thanks to the senator for securing this major source of funding that will extend the capabilities of the Center throughout Missouri. By expanding the reach of the center, we are helping to meet a national goal of improving science and math performance in our schools. Our children must be technologically savvy and scientifically literate as we prepare them for the future. The establishment of the NASA ERC Resource Agent Network is a huge step in that direction.”

The NASA ERC Resource Agent Network has been in development since late last year in partnership with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) Regional Professional Development Center Program. The goal of the network is to enhance the presence and educational impact of the ERC in areas of the state geographically removed from the ERC facility and its staff and to maximize the educational impact of the ERC on teachers and students throughout Missouri.

“While the NASA ERC at Southeast provides a wonderful and valuable service to teachers throughout the state via Internet and phone orders of curriculum materials and other educational resources, the Center has been exceptionally beneficial to teachers and students in Southeast Missouri who are within commuting distance to participate in training or benefit from presentations,” Kern said. “On the other hand, teachers and students geographically removed from southeast Missouri have access to ERC materials but do not benefit from its various training opportunities.”

“The greatest and longest lasting educational impact of the ERC occurs when NASA materials are used in combination with personal interactions with ERC staff through presentations, workshops and other activities,” Kern said.

That’s why funds from the federal earmarks will support the establishment of full-time trained ERC Resource Agents (RAs) at key locations in Missouri. The RAs will provide the training function of the ERC to K-12 teachers and students in their assigned regions via teacher- and student-centered presentations, workshops and related activities at local schools. The Resource Agents will also increase the awareness among educators throughout the state about the Missouri NASA ERC in Cape Girardeau and its NASA educational and promotional materials, Kern said. They are expected to be hired, trained and on the job in March.

“In essence, the Resource Agents will serve as extensions of the ERC into geographically removed areas of the state,” he said, “with the agents providing the training function.”

The ERC in Cape Girardeau will continue to handle distribution of NASA materials to the agents, who will distribute them to students and teachers in their presentations, workshops and other activities. Kern said the Resource Agents will be hosted by Regional Professional Development Centers (RPDC) at the selected sites, with the agents and RPDCs collaborating to better meet the science education needs of K-12 teachers and students in their regions.

“The NASA programs and materials are the best educational resources I have ever encountered in my 31 years in science education,” Kern said. “And contrary to what one might initially think, the NASA materials do not only address space science. They address all the sciences and mathematics and technology.”

Through the efforts of Kern and Dr. Sharon Coleman, director of the Godwin Center for Science and Mathematics Education, Southeast was selected in 1999 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as the site for Missouri’s NASA Educator Resource Center. The selection followed a competitive application and on-site review process among a number of universities and educational entities throughout Missouri. Jackie Wortmann serves as the ERC facility coordinator at Southeast.

Kern will directly administer the NASA ERC Network and its Resource Agents.  General oversight of the Resource Agent Network and its involvement in Missouri education is provided by a Resource Agent Network team chaired by Kern and consisting of a thirteen education specialists representing NASA, DESE, the Missouri Regional Professional Development Program, and Southeast Missouri State University.

For more information on the NASA ERC Resource Agent Network, call Dr. Ernest Kern at (573) 651-2516 or e-mail ekern@semo.edu.