Thursday, May 30, 2024
Home2023 IssuesSpaceman propels learning out of this world!

Spaceman propels learning out of this world!

Having a celebrity speak at your school may seem like a nebulous concept, but teacher, Nasy Pfanner, has done just that. Here’s how…

School’s daily routine can be monotonous: shuffling from one class to another, rushing lunch, cramming for exams… The list goes on!

To avoid boredom, schools need a change of pace. I have tried many activities; some topped, while others flopped. Trial and error is part of teaching. Just like there are many roads that lead to Rome, there are many ways to liven up your school. The boundary is endless, and creativity is key!

For this year’s Spring Break, I had reserved a trip to the Lycian Coast in Turkey, but my name was misspelled. Despite my repeated requests for correction, the travel agent failed to do so. Without the correct name on my ticket, it would not have been possible to travel. Such a mistake had never happened before. Yet, the power of the universe spared me the misery of the earthquakes’ aftershocks that killed over 50,000 people; what appeared to be a disappointment, turned out to be a saving grace.

Out of the blue, a friend texted me about LaSciL (Large Scientific Infrastructures enriching online and digital Learning), an Erasmus+ project to support high quality science teaching workshop in Monsaraz, Portugal from February 17-21. Although my knowledge about astronomy is insignificant, my fascination is immense. Thus, I signed up for it in zeptoseconds.

The workshop was attended by scientists, educators, and few students from the European Union. Amongst the guests was Dr Gernot Grömer, an analogue astronaut, Director of Austrian Space Forum, and host of the science TV show ‘Wissen PM.’ During the workshop he delivered stellar presentations about cosmic treasures and AMADEE, the Austrian Space Forum’s Mars analogue mission research project. We had cordial conversations; he was

down to earth, showing no indication of fame. At the end of the workshop, I got a certificate of attendance, and felt like Galileo.

Upon my return home, I invited Dr Grömer to speak at my secondary school, B.O.R.G. Dornbirn-Schoren. With almost 900 pupils and about 100 teachers, we are our own planet. He agreed without hesitation, and colleagues and pupils were starstruck. My pupils kept bugging me so much about when he would come that I became a bit jittery; in fact, I hallucinated about him falling into a black hole, getting hit by a meteorite or kidnapped by evil aliens. The month-long wait seemed like eternity. Countdown began, and at last, on April 11th he landed in our school. Although, he is Austrian, and German is the national language, I insisted that he speaks English because it is mandatory in schools. His English is excellent; thus, it was not a problem.

Learning science through English is Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in action, killing two subjects with one speaker! He brought a 4.6-billion-year-old meteorite, a fabric that astronaut suit is made of to touch and feel, and astronaut gloves to try on. We boarded a spaceship, and he piloted us along the Milky Way, passing nebulae, white dwarfs, and billions of planets. The 4-hour, mind-boggling, zero gravity flight flew by at the speed of light, and we re-entered Earth as stardust.

As a follow up, I commanded my 14-yearold 4th graders (who sometimes act like they are from a different planet) to write about this experience in our school newspaper in English. Instead of grumbling about another homework, they exploded with energy. The printed article is praiseworthy.

I saw that bringing in a top-notch speaker will increase learning motivation, though finding such a person seems like mission impossible. However, if you know people with special knowledge or life experience, just approach them. If you do not have anyone, ask the people in your school or community. If you still cannot find anyone, then be more active at social, cultural or professional events.

Tomorrow is as an unknown journey, but by brushing off a setback, being pro-active, and embracing new opportunities, Jupiter, the moons and stars might line up perfectly for you. Before you know it, a VIP could be in your school in T-minus days. My first encounter with Dr Grömer was at the beginning of the workshop when all the participants were spacewalking around the model planets on the ground of the Alqueva Observatory in Monsaraz. I had already met other participants, but when I saw a man behind the group whom I had not yet met, I went over to introduce myself. Ladies do not be afraid to take the first leap, men are also Earthlings. 3… 2… 1… Lift-off!

Nasy Pfanner
Nasy Pfanner
Nasy Inthisone Pfanner was born in Laos but grew up in the United States. She has also lived in Thailand and Germany. She now lives and teaches English in Austria.
- Advertisment -

Latest Posts