April 19, 2024

Innovation & Tech Today


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Southeast Kentucky Educators Elevate STEAM at World-Class Conference

Eight educators from Bell County and Middlesboro School Districts in Southeast Kentucky recently traveled to Houston, Texas to attend the Science Exploration Educators Conference (SEEC). SEEC, organized by Space Center Houston, serves as a vital platform for educators spanning kindergarten through 12th grade. Over three intensive days, attendees engaged in immersive experiences, both on-site and virtually. From delving into the forefront of aerospace to networking with industry leaders and accessing state-of-the-art resources, SEEC offered a comprehensive exploration of STEAM.

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The Kentucky-based educators were selected by astronaut John Shoffner and The Perseid Foundation for their unwavering dedication to nurturing the next generation of innovators. The group included Nick Shoffner, Shalora Neely, Jennifer Lewis, Jennifer Hilton, Michael Wilson, Amanda Estes, Charles Thomas, and Terry Wilson. They participated in exclusive sessions, networking events, and behind-the-scenes tours of nearby NASA. Each wide-eyed educator had their ambitions set on bringing new practices and inspiration back to their classrooms in underserved Appalachia. 

“I loved the keynote speakers,” said engineering teacher Jennifer Lewis. “It inspired me to encourage my kids to dream big, and how much our words impact them.”

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In the true spirit of the South, Middlesboro and Bell County Schools have a history of athletic rivalry. From February 7-10, the two schools came together in celebration of STEAM education. A welcome dinner fostered cross-district collaboration, allowing educators from Bell County and Middlesboro Schools to connect and exchange ideas. Educators also took part in a private tour of Axiom Space. 

The group received a firsthand glimpse of the world’s first commercial space station by some of the leading pioneers of private space development. Teachers also engaged in a hands-on session led by Limitless Space Institute Executive Director, Kaci Heins, and Ax-2 Pilot John Shoffner, who demonstrated talking on a beam of light, angular momentum, and more. A lively room of educators echoed with laughter as teachers put lessons into practice through a series of trial and error (and a few broken props!). 

Each session and experience offered a new perspective on the space industry. The Perseid Foundation’s ultimate goal was to showcase all the ways STEAM education can be woven into all subject areas, not just science.

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“I learned a lot about what is going on in the world of space. I was able to share with my students how many opportunities there are to work in space, even if you are not an astronaut,” said science teacher Amanda Estes. 

As the eight educators head back to their classrooms, they bring with them a wealth of knowledge and inspiration from SEEC. Equipped with fresh insights and resources, they’re eager to infuse STEAM into their curriculum and leave the next generation of innovators more inspired than ever. 

Through the launch of the Perseid Foundation, Astronaut Shoffner’s new mission is to promote STEAM education to help educators find new ways to excite young students to become curious and life-long learners.

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The Perseid Foundation works to bring world-leading partnerships to its schools across Appalachia with programs for improving the learning culture in classrooms and STEAM curriculum development. Globally, they host programs that connect students to space and promote the “A” in STEAM including the International Space Art and Poetry Contest and Habitat Space educational web series. 

By Nicole Swickle

By Nicole Swickle

Nicole Swickle is an accomplished Publicist, Wellness Speaker, Published Author, and Emmy nominated Producer. She is best known for fully embedding herself in niche communities to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for people and their passions. Swickle’s written work transcends surface-level narratives and leads readers to fall in love with topics they didn’t even know they cared about. With over a decade of experience bridging the gap between brands, talent, and communities — Swickle’s stories always prove to be bigger than business. Her work can be found in Nashville Fit Magazine, BizBash, RedBull.com, and more.

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