Jeff Goldstein is a renowned astrophysicist and director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in Washington DC. But he is equally known as a first-rate science educator with a knack for creating and implementing approaches in teaching that truly engage students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The teacher’s job, he contends, is to “immerse the students in the act of the journey by letting them do science, and acknowledging it is their journey.”
Dr. Jeff, (as students and colleagues like to call him), took his message recently to the National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) conference in San Francisco where he served as keynote speaker. There, before a packed house, he took science teachers on a stimulating inquiry-based tour of the solar system using hands-on models and samples to illustrate creative classroom approaches that can be used to engage students. “I can bring this to you with models, and I’m not asking you to memorize a bunch of facts and figures, I’m asking you to feel it, to experience it,” Jeff told the audience. When teaching, he also warned, don’t teach to the test. “Don’t hand out a list of procedures for an experiment,” he said, “you want to shepherd your students to first ask the gift of a question and then come up with the procedures for an experiment that might reveal an answer. They need to own the exploration. If you hand them experiment procedures then you own it, and you are training them to be nothing more than technicians, not artists.”
Jeff brings this same passion to his role as director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) where he is responsible for the creation and delivery of national initiatives in STEM education, with a focus on earth and space. These include programs for K-12 schools, families, and the public; professional development for grade K-12 educators; exhibitions for museums and science centers, and distance learning programs.
Can you think of some inquiry-based approaches to teaching space science classes?
Read more about AT&T sponsored Nifty Fifty program speaker Jeff Goldstein here.
And watch Jeff’s inspirational music video.