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Baldwin-Whitehall teacher heads to Houston for space exploration

| Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
J.E. Harrison Middle School science teacher Debbie Reynolds sits for a photo inside the school's simulator classroom Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. Reynolds was one of 36 teachers from across the country selected to take part in the Science Educator Expedition Crew program, an outreach of the Space Exploration Educator Conference in Houston, Texas next month.

When it comes to science, technology, engineering and math, Debbie Reynolds always is looking for ways to help students be prepared for the future.

The J.E. Harrison Middle School teacher was accepted to participate in the Space Educator Expedition Crew program, an outreach of the Space Exploration Educator Conference in Houston next month. Reynolds was one of 36 teachers from across the country to be selected to the crew program, which will be held Feb. 8 to 11.

She learned about the conference from her sister, who is a teacher and lives in Galveston, Texas. Because the Baldwin-Whitehall school board does not pay for teacher conferences out of state, Reynolds said staying with her sister was a big reason why she applied. The Space Center will cover the cost of the leadership program.

While her sister will attend only the conference, Reynolds wanted to learn more so she could add to the programs used in the school's IKS Highlander simulator. The application process was intense, she said.

Reynolds had to make a three-minute promotional video, in which she showcased the school's simulator. The school simulator has different missions for each grade level, and each mission ties into curriculum. The space mission ties in health for the sixth grade, science for the seventh grade and science and social studies for eighth grade.

She needed to submit a resume and a letter of recommendation from Principal Jill Fleming-Salopek, as well as answer five essay questions.

“They wanted to get a good feel of the teachers they were selecting,” said Reynolds, who teaches seventh-grade science, the eighth-grade elective STEM class and operates the simulator.

Reynolds will participate in seven sessions led by mainly scientists from NASA. She is excited about the workshop, “Science Classrooms in Orbit? Students Can Code Satellites with Ardusat!”

Participants will learn how to integrate Arduino coding into their classrooms with student-designed experiments using satellites currently in orbit. The program is designed to teach students in grades six through 12, using science, math and technology. Reynolds plans to use the new material for the STEM class.

“I try to bring in relevant tech‑nology into the classroom,” Rey‑ nolds said. “I want to add missions for the sixth- and seventh-graders.”

When Reynolds returns to Harrison to share her experiences, she also will be sharing her classroom material with the other teachers in the program. The teachers will be divided into six regional crews.

“We will communicate with each other and develop curriculum and materials,” said Reynolds, who will return to the conference next year to share her results with the other teachers.

Jim Spezialetti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5805 or

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