Education

‘Teachernauts’ Set Foundation

By Blake Rodman — April 02, 1986 3 min read

Washington

The 112 finalists in NASA’S teacher-in-space competition have established a foundation to promote “space-age” learning and reward innovative teaching.

The move, announced here last month, represents the latest in a series of national undertakings growing out of the ill-fated Challenger mission.

Last week, representatives from groups sponsoring commemorative funds and scholarships and drives to replace the space shuttle reported a brisk flow of donations, now said to total in excess of several hundred thousand dollars.

Barbara Morgan, the 2nd-grade teacher from McCall, Idaho, now slated to be the first citizen-participant aboard the shuttle, announced the creation of the “‘Teacher In Space Education Foundation” at a press conference here March 18.

But the new foundation was conceived last January at a NASA-sponsored conference for the finalists in Orlando, Fla.,just prior to the Challenger launch.

Much of the groundwork for the venture, finalists said, was laid the night before the space shuttle exploded killing Christa McAuliffe, who was to have been the foundation’s honorary chairman.

The foundation is designed to foster a “pioneering, space-age spirit in American education,” Ms. Morgan said, and to challenge teachers to participate in “innovative educational ventures.” The Idaho teacher, Ms. McAuliffe’s backup for the Challenger flight, will serve as president of the new foundation.

“There are thousands of innovative teachers throughout our nation who are looking to the future,” she said. “Our aim is to recognize their creativity and assist them in bringing the world’s frontiers into our classrooms.”

The foundation plans to present 10 annual “Christa McAuliffe Teacher Recognition Awards” to teachers who have created “space-age” learning opportunities. It will also operate a national speakers bureau for the Space Ambassadors, disseminate classroom lessons associated with the space-shuttle program, and publish a bimonthly journal.

In addition, foundation members will be eligible to compete for sabbatical internships with NASA or aerospace-oriented corporations.

The foundation, which will operate as a nonprofit enterprise, is not affiliated with NASA. Kathleen Beres, a teacher-in-space finalist from Maryland and chief spokesman for the foundation, said the space agency is “encouraging and endorsing” the initiative, but is providing no financial backing.

The task currently facing NASA’S Space Ambassadors, as the teacher-in-space finalists are now known, is finding ways to raise money to support the foundation, Ms. Beres said. Planned activities will require an estimated $2.5 million a year, she said, some of which will come from registration fees and annual dues.

Response to Tragedy

Meanwhile, support continued for other projects honoring Ms. McAuliffe:

  • Last’ month, New Hampshire’s Concord High School, where Ms. McAuliffe taught, received a check for $100,000 from the Japanese consul general in Boston. The school has received more than $130,000, none of it solicited, according to Mark E. Beauvais, superintendent of schools. A newly formed committee of local educators and residents will decide how the money will be used.
  • The United States Space Foundation, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization located in Colorado Springs, Colo., has raised $98,500 and the “Pennies for Space-Rebuild the Spirit” program, organized by the Haverling Central School District in Bath, N.Y., has raised $6,500 to replace the orbiter Challenger.
  • The National Education Association’s memorial scholarship program for teachers last week showed a balance of $211,000, almost half of which was contributed by the union itself.
  • An American Federation of Teachers scholarship fund, organized in conjunction with Bowie State College in Maryland, where Ms. McAuliffe earned a master’s degree, had raised $6,500. The A.F.T. recently launched a national advertising campaign, “Christa’s Challenge,” to raise money for another fund that will make scholarships available to students planning to teach, a union spokesman said last week.
  • And American Security Bank here reported last week that the trust fund it established for the 11 children of the astronauts killed in the shuttle explosion had a balance of $850,000.

A bank spokesman said the account had received more than 25,000 contributions, with individual donations ranging from 44 cents given by a New Jersey child to $50,000 from film director Steven Spielberg.

A version of this article appeared in the April 02, 1986 edition of Education Week

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