Our Islands, Our Future

Pukalani Elementary School second-grade teacher Betty Brask found a great deal of inspiration and a renewed drive to teach science, technology, engineering and math while attending “Space in the Classroom” at the annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance (AMOS) technical conference. “It’s a fabulous opportunity,” she said. “Every teacher should attend. It will get you connected and so excited about STEM teaching.”

Among the program highlights was a “talk story” session with former NASA astronaut and International Space Station Commander Leroy Chiao, she said. “He gives you real life experiences that you can relate to. It was so inspiring,” Brask said. Sponsored by the Maui Economic Development Board, the four-day AMOS conference brought together scientists and experts in the fields of optics, imaging, space situational awareness, space weather and related specialties in astronomy to offer updates and assessments of current research. This year’s program for teachers focused on Earth science, Brask said, with attendees evaluating maps of the planet taken from space. Teachers from a variety of grade levels from across the island networked and engaged in activities including how to plot and track storms and how to categorize and assess damage.

Brask has been to at least three AMOS teacher workshops and has been an active participant in MEDB’s Women in Technology Project for more than a decade. Every time she returns from a workshop or training, Brask said she’s been able to incorporate new lessons into her classroom. This time around, Brask’s 2nd graders will be learning to track storms. “For kids, it’s going to be a blast. I’m sure of it,” she said. “Anytime you can get them doing hands-on learning with science, they’ll go crazy with it.” “Space in the Classroom,” co-sponsored by Space Foundation, consists of two main elements – one for students and the other for teachers. Three hundred Maui middle school students and nearly 30 island teachers took part in the full-day programs this year. The AMOS Conference is described as the premier technical conference in the nation devoted to space surveillance.