Broadcast with Cubes in Space

Check out this recorded broadcast that I had the pleasure of participating in with two of my former Cubes in Space students!  While viewing, you will learn about the upcoming partnership with the Cubes team and Captain Judy Rice!


TEDx: Inspiring the Astronauts of Tomorrow

So honored to be asked to share my experiences in the classroom.  Scariest thing I have done in awhile but strangely want to do it again!

Cranbrook teams up with MIT to boost learning

Excited to be a part of this wonderful collaboration.  Shocked that I made the cover!


Students at Cranbrook Kingswood Girls Middle School work with the atom and molecule sets designed at the Edgerton Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Photo: Cranbrook Schools)

Student Experiments in Space


High altitude balloon launch from September 2016

What if I told you that my middle school students launched two experiments to space this summer.  No engineering degree or NASA credentials required!  If you are teacher, and dream about going to space,  this is a pretty cool accomplishment! I helped make this happen by participating in a very unique program called Cubes in Space.

cubes in space

The Cubes in Space program is a free, no-cost opportunity to design experiments to be launching into space on a NASA rocket or high-altitude balloon.  This is a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) based global education program, enabling kids to learn about space exploration utilizing innovative problem-solving, inquiry-based learning methods.  By participating in this program, students and educators are provided with engaging content and activities in preparation for the design and development of an experiment to be integrated into a small cube.

Teachers sign up for the program between late September and early January.  They then have access to a wealth of curriculum divided into four phases.  Each phase coaches the teacher and their students along from inquiry to research to proposal.  Every activity within a phase has a purpose, for example the below screen shot is from the first activity where students are encouraged to brainstorm questions they have of the program.   Activity A screenshot

Brainstorming questions is a necessary first step in the design thinking process.  The students will discover the answers as the curriculum develops.


Students use time to research topics such as forces of flight and structural make-up of the material they want to test.

Phase 2 and 3  introduce the rocket and high-altitude balloon logistics and how they are used as vehicles for flight within the program.  Students learn about quantitative versus qualitative data, manipulated variables, interpretation of graphics, the definition of a payload and the limitations experienced in the program. temperature and pressure diagram

payload rocket

In the final phase, students begin to write their proposals.  This is a daunting task and students learn first-hand how much time and research is involved when designing an experiment worthy of flight.


Students CAD a container and 3-D print it to contain their experiment during flight.



Students make the necessary measurements before submission.


Careful calculations are made to stay within guidelines.


Control experiments are preformed and recorded for comparison after launch.



Size of cube that fits the experiment.

There is always a risk that your students will not be selected; I warned my students of this.  Fortunately we were selected for both the sounding rocket and the high altitude balloon launches.  Payloads are returned rather quickly after flight and analysis begins.  This program brings real-world experiential science to the classroom.  My students felt a sense of accomplishment from all of their hard work and now had something amazing to brag about.  Fingers crossed for the 2017 group!

For more information on the Cubes in Space program visit

Thanks for reading!


Sounding rocket launch from June 2016


Mass versus Weight: A unique STEM approach

I regularly incorporate NASA activities into my physical science curriculum.  In this post, I cover how I introduced a NASA lesson on  Mass vs. Weight into my classroom.  This particular lesson can be found on the NASA education page.  While this post will focus on physical science, the lesson could be easily incorporated into other disciplines.

Students commonly misuse the terms “mass” and “weight”.   The principal objective of the lesson is for students to properly define and explain the difference between the two concepts.

KEY CONCEPT: Mass is the amount of matter in an object and weight is a force due to the gravitational pull on an object.  Mass is constant despite exposure to gravity, while weight is a measurement of force upon an object based on gravitational pull.  This difference is often difficult for students to grasp because they have a singular experience–gravity on planet Earth.

The activity, Mass versus Weight (on the NASA website), explores the concepts of mass, weight, forces, Newton’s Laws, gravity  and micro-gravity across four lessons.

In the first lesson plan, students are introduced to three astronauts through reading exercises and video and provided and overview of concept.  My students felt connected to the astronauts and enjoyed watching the videos that explained the experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) and how the micro-gravity changed the behavior of the activity.

The first activity, Stretching Mass, required students to record mass and volume and observe the gravitational pull on a full versus empty Capri-Sun juice pouch. Predictions were made regarding the result of the same test conducted in  a micro-gravity environment.  Following their predictions, students watched videos shot on the ISS in which the astronauts carried out the same experiment.   The students enjoyed seeing the changes and verifying their predictions.IMG_7605video of astonaut 2
In this picture, Nicole Passonno Stott (NASA astronaut) performs the same experiment with Capri-Sun juice pouches in space.

In the second activity, Air-Powered Mass,  students created paper containers to hold pennies (change in mass).  A series of straws were placed horizontally in a line below the box to create a roller belt.  A balloon pump was used to force burst of air against the container and propel is over the straw rollers. The experiment was repeated with additional pennies (increase in mass) added between each set.  Students recorded the mass and distance traveled during each set.  Instructor-led presentations covered mass, momentum, Newton’s laws of motion and forces using the experiment as  a case study.IMG_7610
TIP:  Keep the type of air pump consistent for each group.  I used two different air pumps and one didn’t push air out as consistently as the other.FullSizeRender
Students were prompted to make predictions how this same activity would work in a micro-gravity environment, then watched video of two astronauts preforming the experiment.
video of astronaut pictures
Here Robert Brent Thirsk and Koichi Wakata perform the experiment with a large air gun.  Students observed that the air pushed on the container the same way.  Due to a lesser gravitational pull, the object stayed in motion and did not stop.

The series continues with a lesson on Accelerating Mass and an activity,  Designing Your Own Experiment.   I was unable to fit this lesson in due to time constraints.  I did not find the omission of this lesson as a detriment.  My students demonstrated an understanding of the concepts, mass versus weight, and had an early introduction to Newton’s laws and forces.

Stay tuned for my next post on how I incorporated NASA’s Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) engineering design challenge activity into my curriculum at the end of my elements/compounds/mixtures chapter.  My students loved it so much they wanted to do it again!!


Rochester Hills teacher attends national space camp- article by the Oakland Press


So thankful to tell my space story to the local area.  I wish every STEM teacher could experience this!  Click the link below to read the article from the Oakland Press.

Reflections: Honeywell Educators @ Space Academy


Day 5: Log/ Reflections

Graduation was a fun event.  Honeywell and the Space Academy really know how to make a teacher feel special!  Instead of just handing you a certificate of completion, both of these organizations put together an event that was well organized, including special Honeywell and Space Academy guests.  Each team and member was announced shaking hands with the director of the program and given their “wings”.


Dinner under the Saturn V rocket



Dancing on the moon


I want to thank the Honeywell Corporation and the Space Academy for choosing me to participate in this wonderful program. It was an incredible week; THE BEST PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED! The activities I have learned will definitely be implemented in my curriculum this year. Stay tuned to hear how!!

The connections I made with all of the teachers I have met is priceless. I already have plans to Google Hangout educators in England and Russia and collaborate with team mates to discuss applications for future conferences.  I have been researching a lot since I’ve been home. One topic is astronaut Scott Kelly’s #YearInSpace journey and the International Space Station in general. I have learned about CASIS (The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) and the programs they have to offer educators and their students ( (  I am already brainstorming how I can apply for a grant to fund a trip to the International Space Station Research and Development conference in San Diego next July. I am currently signed up to attend the Space Educators conference at the Johnson Space Station this upcoming February ( and am also looking into applying to become a solar systems ambassador ( for 2016.

I am inspired and motivated to change the way I teach. My summer goals are to figure out how to incorporate all of these new lesson plans, including additional ones in my NASA workbooks, into my curriculum. I am also planning on creating a promotional video to play at school in the Fall to recruit some hopeful space camp students for next June.

Thanks for reading!