Star Treff, third-grade teacher at Cooley Ranch Elementary in Colton, California recently added play director for NASA’s Space School Musical to her list of accomplishments as a teacher. The full length musical, written and provided by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, was performed by fourth through sixth grade students at her school. Treff reports “For weeks we heard the kids singing science songs. Excitement was electric from teachers, kids, and parents alike. We had so many parents comment that it was the best play they had ever seen at our school.” Treff was ecstatic that not only did students excel in their artistic abilities, but they retained and mastered the included Science content as well.
The inspiration for the musical came from Treff’s participation in Endeavor course The Arts in STEM: Advancing Meaningful Integration with Dr. Kathryn “Annie” Arnone. Treff describes the course as one of the powerful learning moments she experienced in the Endeavor program, along with opportunities to interact with a variety of NASA professionals who specialized in various STEM fields. Her favorite was working with Dr. Brandon Rodriguez, an Education Specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. After working with Dr. Rodriguez in Endeavor courses, Treff reached out to him and asked him to lead a professional development for the teachers at her school. She is grateful to Dr. Rodriguez and the Endeavor program for bringing this unique experience to her colleagues.
Treff chose the program because she sought opportunities to stay connected well beyond her studies and be included in as many professional development opportunities as possible – something that educators in the Endeavor community take full advantage of. Treff prides herself in being a lifelong learner and after thorough research she decided that the Endeavor STEM Teaching Certificate Project was where she needed to be.
Treff also found the structure of the Endeavor program to be highly conducive to full time educators as it is designed to work with every educators’ particular teaching assignment. She was hesitant to take on the program at first as she knew she had a huge teaching load and wondered if she was overcommitting herself. Instead of the Endeavor program being a burden, Treff found the courses to be flexible and more of a support for her teaching, by incorporating course materials and strategies into her classroom and getting real-time results. For example, Treff took the course Life and Marine Science: Tracking Live Marine Animals with Dr. Meghan Marrero. This course inspired an ocean focused unit where students made posters about working to save turtles. Treff and her students organized a beach clean-up day at Huntington Beach in California to put their learning into practice.
After completing Endeavor’s 5-course Certificate in STEM Leadership program, earning an additional endorsement as a Distinguished STEM Educator, Treff reports that it is her students who are benefiting the most from her training. She has had multiple students who have won district and county science fairs and she even had one student who was so inspired she applied for and won a scholarship to attend Space Camp. Treff shares “I would highly recommend this program to anyone considering extending their knowledge of STEM and preparing to become future ready for themselves and their students. I truly love the Endeavor program and I look forward to all of the continued opportunities I will have with Endeavor to further my professional teaching practice.”
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