NASA’s SOFIA Mission For Three Junior High Science Teachers
At the intersection of education and forward thinking lies NASA’s SOFIA mission, which has provided the opportunity for three of Santa Clarita’s own educators to come together and conduct their own research into the great unknown: space.
The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy mission, abbreviated as SOFIA, is centered around a Boeing 747SP that will carry a reflecting telescope out into the atmosphere to collect data on all kinds of astronomical phenomenon, including star birth and death, galaxies, black holes, and the formation of new solar systems.
This coming fall, three educators from Santa Clarita will be participating in NASA’s upcoming 2021 SOFIA mission, and as they’ll tell you themselves, they’re over the moon about it — literally.
“Astronomy has always been my favorite science area since I was a child. After teaching middle school science for over 30 years, I’m excited to be a part of real science in action,” says Shelley Turski, a science teacher at La Mesa Junior High. “The science geek in me is thrilled!”
Shelley will be accompanied by two other teachers from the valley who share in her love for astronomy, exploration, and research. Of course, one other thing they have in common is the reason they were all motivated to apply for the mission in the first place: their students.
“I hope participating in this program demonstrates to my students that learning doesn’t stop when you graduate or reach a certain age,” says Stacy Wade-Robb, a science teacher at Rio Norte Junior High. “Science is exciting and I want my students to feel that.”
As participants in the program, the three ladies have been undergoing extensive training in preparation for the flight. The mission is not only an exciting opportunity for research, but also an opportunity to showcase the importance of scientific curiosity in today’s world.
“It’s hard to pin down one thing in particular that I am the most excited for,” shares Marisa Heflin, a science teacher at Arroyo Seco Junior High. “I’m hoping to use this experience to inspire my students to be curious about the world around them and to continually push themselves to learn and grow well past their time in my classroom.”
Through an incredibly competitive application process, Shelley, Stacey, and Marisa were all required to submit essays and additional paperwork to make it onto the flight. Then, in January of this year, it was announced that they would be three of 30 educators from all across the country selected to be a part of the SOFIA mission later this year.
Currently, all three teachers are busy prepping for the mission in anticipation of it taking place in late fall 2021 or early winter 2021, and throughout all of the learning and training, their passion for science and the vast unknown only grows stronger.
“It’s such an amazing opportunity to participate in this program, not only for my own personal growth but also for my growth as an educator,” Marisa says. “I feel like my sense of wonder for the universe will only continue to grow.”
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