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Fueling Science Teachers to Inspire Students with Hands-on Science

Thanks to Aerojet Rocketdyne, the INFINITY Science Center, and Science Buddies, a group of teachers in Mississippi got a booster course in rocket science—and paper airplane folding.

Three woman fold pink paper airplanes
Teachers engage in a hands-on airplane folding activity as part of the Hancock County Science Teacher Development Conference, sponsored by Aerojet Rocketdyne, INFINITY Science Center, and Science Buddies. (Photo: courtesy INFINITY Science Center)

With increasing demand for next-generation science curriculum that integrates, activates, and extrapolates core subject material, teachers are being challenged to find new ways to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to life for their students. Revised curriculum is pushing teachers to embrace emerging areas of science and help students explore ways that STEM processes and disciplines may be interconnected and interrelated.

Companies like Aerojet Rocketdyne are helping catalyze teacher enthusiasm and innovation with community-based professional development workshops. These events help fuel teachers to create experiential learning moments for their students and provide them with a toolkit of supportive resources they can bring to the classroom.

Recently, a group of elementary school teachers in Mississippi spent a day at the INFINITY Science Center for the first Hancock County Science Teacher Development Conference. The event, sponsored by Aerojet Rocketdyne, INFINITY Science Center, and Science Buddies, was designed to give teachers concrete support for STEM education, just as schools in the area begin conducting science fairs.

In addition to learning more about the core principles of Aeronautical Engineering, teachers were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of INFINITY and learned about Aerojet Rocketdyne's "Adventures in Aerospace" program, which is designed to excite students about the wonders and study of space, rocketry, and aerospace. They also toured Aerojet Rocketdyne's facility at Stennis Space Center where the RS-25 rocket engine is being tested for the next generation of NASA human-rated space launch vehicles.

In addition, the teachers took a guided virtual tour of the Science Buddies website to help them better understand the vast array of resources offered to support students and teachers doing science experiments and activities. To help reinforce the benefits of hands-on learning when translating science concepts to the real world, teachers did the Paper Airplanes: Why Flaps and Folds Matter activity.

The activity, part of Science Buddies new STEM Activities for Kids section, helps showcase how simple design changes in paper folding can make a big difference in how a plane flies.

Two women prepare to throw pink paper airplanes over the rail of a balcony
Folding planes is only part of the process. You have to test them to see how design changes affect the way planes fly! (Photo: courtesy INFINITY Science Center)

With resources like Science Buddies, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and INFINITY Science Center, teachers can bring new science standards into the classroom in ways that may help capture and ignite the interest of students who represent the next generation of STEM workers.

"We're committed to experiential learning here at the INFINITY Science Center, and so it was really valuable to include Science Buddies' hands-on activities as part of the Hancock County Science Teacher Professional Development Conference that was created in partnership with Aerojet Rocketdyne," said John Wilson, Executive Director. "The teachers got some great new ideas that they took back into their classrooms."

Juanita Garcia, Executive Director of the GenCorp Foundation (GenCorp, Inc. is the parent company of Aerojet Rocketdyne), said she completely agrees. "By partnering with the INFINITY Science Center and Science Buddies, we can inspire so many more students through their teachers. The GenCorp Foundation's primary focus is STEM Education with the goal of encouraging young people to continue their education and consider careers in aerospace and science. Helping teachers understand our business allows them to better assist their students in selecting a career path that meets their interests."

For additional inspiration about the value and importance of STEM education, visit Aerojet Rocketdyne's YouTube page here to watch a video.

The GenCorp Foundation/Aerojet Rocketdyne is a proud sponsor of Science Buddies.

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