High Altitude Ballooning as a Mechanism for Teaching NGSS-Related Geoscience Content and Classroom Activities for Pre- and In-Service Teachers

Friday, 19 December 2014
Michael Allen Urban and Tim Kroeger, Bemidji State University, Bemidji, MN, United States
Training in-service and pre-service K-12 science teachers to understand and structure appropriate instructional opportunities for addressing cross-cutting concepts and engineering design with students in their classrooms is critical given the emphases in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). One mechanism for doing so involves utilizing high altitude ballooning as a tool for providing authentic investigation opportunities in the geosciences. As individual states review and make decisions about what role the NGSS will play in their standards, it is important for college and university science teacher preparation programs to prepare current and future teachers to become more comfortable with designing research investigations, controlling variables, anticipating cross-disciplinary connections, refining and analyzing data, and communicating the findings of real and contrived scientific investigation. Many undergraduate and professional development research possibilities exist through high altitude ballooning, including: microbiological experimentation at high altitudes, microcontroller use for context-specific data collection, near-space system development and design, balloon flight-track modeling, and more. Example projects and findings will be shared.   Equally important to creating appropriate learning activities to address NGSS expectations is understanding the context-specific needs and available resources existing in K-12 science classrooms. Findings from semi-structured interviews with a focus group of pre-service and practicing teachers will be presented -- from both participants and non-participants in high altitude ballooning activities -- related to how high altitude ballooning could be (or already is) being used to meet NGSS and state science standards. The two primary outcomes of the presentation are to: 1) inform science teacher preparation programs for purposes of structuring useful and appropriate science methods activities; 2) frame the K-12 science classroom environment for consideration of the practicality of high altitude ballooning activities for meeting state and national science standards.