Middle School science teacher Emily Firkus has been named a semifinalist for the Minnesota Teacher of the Year award. Congratulations, Ms. Firkus!
How our Singapore Math Curriculum develops flexible thinking and the ability for abstraction.
Recap: Why are We Doing This?
If you've read our previous post in this series, The Jobs That Don't Exist, you already know that more than half of the jobs our students will step
Even in seemingly straightforward courses, like math, our instructors are working to make sure students are prepared with these skills.
How the Innovation Lab develops persistence, collaboration, and the ability to critically examine one's own work.
Recap: What's the Why?
How do we prepare our students for an environment we can hardly imagine? What skills will translate into roles and technology that we have no way to anticipate?
An amazing benefit of building from scratch is that we have the opportunity to look at what science says about learning and design our space accordingly.
At 3:44 this morning nestled among the 7,400 pounds of equipment, cargo and supplies, an experiment designed to determine if copper crystals grow faster and stronger in space started its journey towards the International Space Station.
In 1968, Gordon Corbett began teaching science in my hometown on the coast of Maine. He was a larger-than-life Navy man and oceanographer who had survived two near-sinkings and decided to come ashore to teach sixth grade. That man—champion of space exploration, consummate storyteller, inventor of endless experiments, the embodiment of kindness and goodness—that man shaped my childhood and my future. He is my model and inspiration as a science teacher today. The August 2017 gas explosion at Minnehaha Academy brought Gordon Corbett back into my life, as he shared his own life lessons with me about explosions and tragedy in ways that helped me begin to move forward.
Nearly 50 years ago, Mr. Corbett prepared us like NASA astronauts-in-training for the 1969 Apollo 11 lunar landing, and took us in tow to marine labs, pipelines, beaches, and the Boston Museum of Science. Gordon Corbett was so innovative, passionate and infectious he couldn’t be contained in one classroom. He received Maine’s 1980 Teacher of the Year Award, saying he “wasn’t the best but represented the best.” When President Reagan announced in 1984 that a teacher would soon travel aboard the Challenger space shuttle in the Teacher in Space program, over 11,000 applied. Gordon Corbett became a finalist with his proposed lessons to teach American schoolchildren the science of the yo-yo in space; NASA selected Christa McAuliffe (“I touch the future: I teach”) instead. Mr. Corbett and other finalists were at Kennedy Space Center that cold January morning in 1986, watching as the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off. I remember seeing him on television that night with tears streaming down his face. “I’ve always taught my students that space is the future. Now what do I teach them?” A new science teacher myself by then, I needed him to answer his own question.
And he did. Gordon Corbett returned to his students with renewed determination: It is man’s destiny to fly. Space exploration—like any worthy enterprise—has no guarantee of safety. To rebuild is essential. Keep pursuing the dream.
In 2007, when Christa McAuliffe’s backup Barbara Morgan finally completed the successful Teacher In Space mission aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, Mr. Corbett wrote to me. "Finally after 22 years a teacher has flown. The dream was and still is alive! It has been a long wait and was an unfinished chapter in aerospace history. Now the torch is passed to a younger generation of astronauts, scientists, educators, students and dreamers."
Gordon Corbett passed the torch to me, and for 20 years I’ve tried my best to pass it to my science students. For three of those years I co-mentored Minnehaha Academy’s International Space Station team designing, building and launching experiments to the I.S.S. We lost our 2015 experiment when the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying it exploded shortly after launch. Dealing with that disaster, I could hear Mr. Corbett’s voice: “It is our destiny to fly. Space exploration isn’t safe but it’s essential. Rebuild.”
On August 2, 2017, I was in the Minnehaha Academy computer lab when a gas explosion destroyed much of the Upper School and killed two colleagues. In recent months I’ve leaned once again on Gordon Corbett’s hard-won wisdom when facing unexpected tragedies and explosions: Commit to the essential work of rebuilding. Pursue the dream and the destiny.
I had the privilege of welcoming Gordon Corbett to my Minnehaha Academy science classes in April through the generosity of a Schuler Shoes Teacher Appreciation grant. We also gave a chapel message together to the Upper School. He spoke passionately about Christa McAuliffe’s motto, “I touch the future: I teach.” He told the students, “I love these words. I’ve touched the future—she’s sitting right here beside me, and she’s touching all of you. Some of you will go on to become teachers—you just don’t know it yet. You will touch the future. And that’s a very big responsibility and an awesome challenge and a great honor.”
To Gordon Corbett and my teaching colleagues everywhere during this 2018 Teacher Appreciation Week May 7-11: Receiving the torch is an awesome challenge and great honor. Let’s pass it on with responsibility, gratitude, and fresh dreams.