Students in a CCA elementary school science class received an out of this world educational experience when they got to hear from an aerospace engineer who works at NASA. Lou Parkinson, a family friend of a CCA assistant principal, knew that she wanted to talk to kids about the importance of space exploration.
After a few phone calls, she was put in touch with Emily Nagle, who is an elementary school teacher at CCA. Parksinon is based at NASA’s Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt, Md., and is a NASA mission systems engineer. In her role, Parkinson leads a team of engineers in spacecraft development and ensures that all of the functioning parts of the spacecraft are working correctly.
Students in Nagle’s Honors 5 science class listened to Parkinson share her experiences during a Live Classroom session. Parkinson’s experiences range from helping build weather satellites that measure global precipitation to proposing a mission that would involve collecting gas and dust particle samples from Mars. Perhaps the one thing that intrigued students the most was the fact that Parkinson took over the controls of a spacecraft from the Earth’s surface while working at Johnson Space Station in Houston.
Currently, Parkinson is working on the joint polar satellite system, which measures atmospheric and oceanic data such as temperatures, ozone, rainfall and natural disasters such as droughts and floods. This satellite also helps NOAA create weather reports and predicting forecasts.
Throughout Parkinson’s presentation, students were given the opportunity to ask questions.
Some of the questions students asked Parkinson included:
- Does she know of the existence of other dimensions?
- Has she ever traveled to space?
- Does she believe aliens exist?
“The topic of the solar system or outer space is very popular among learners. It can also seem separate from them personally compared to other science concepts due to not having first-hand experiences. Having Ms. Parkinson share her knowledge and experience working for NASA provided that connection.” Nagle said. “This was a powerful moment. My learners can read about things like this or watch videos, but hearing first hand from a NASA engineer who worked on the satellites is remarkable.”
Parkinson has degrees in aerospace engineering from North Carolina State University, and a degree in applied physics from Johns Hopkins University, but was not too proud to tell the students: “I know a lot, but I don’t know nearly as much as what I don’t know. Every day I get to learn something new.”