Avenues Teachers Selected for NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory Research Program

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Michael Maccarone and Elizabeth Rosenberger are Only Teachers from New York State Chosen for Prestigious Flying Classroom and Laboratory

Two teachers from Avenues: The World School were selected to participate in a research program on NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a highly modified Boeing 747SP that can fly above the typical atmospheric levels of planes. Michael Maccarone, curriculum specialist for science and an Upper School science teacher, and Elizabeth Rosenberger, a Lower School science teacher, are the sole pair selected from New York State and one of only 12 two-person teams from across the country for this prestigious flying classroom and laboratory.

Through the program, Maccarone and Rosenberger will be paired with a professional astronomer studying how airborne infrared astronomy is conducted, a phenomenon that can only be viewed from altitudes above 40,000 feet. As a point of references, planes for consumer travel fly at an altitude of 30,000 to 39,000 feet.

After their flight opportunities, Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Maccarone and Rosenberger will take what they learn back to their classrooms and into their communities to promote science literacy.

“SOFIA offers educator teams unprecedented access to infrared astronomers and the unique capabilities of an airborne observatory,” said John Gagosian, SOFIA program executive at NASA headquarters in Washington. “Previous Airborne Astronomy Ambassador teams have witnessed SOFIA’s world-class astronomical science and have used this experience in hundreds of science, technology, engineering and math teaching opportunities throughout the United States.”

Maccarone, a resident of Brooklyn, said that he and Rosenberger, a West Village resident, are taking a three-part approach to developing and sharing the SOFIA experience: curricular development and spiraling content, digital texts and public outreach.

“As the upper school science curriculum specialist and grade nine physics teacher, I strive to integrate engineering, technology, mathematics and the arts into science curriculum across grade levels and divisions,” Maccarone said. “This ‘STEAM’ initiative requires an open-minded approach from faculty and students. The SOFIA project will allow us to spiral content and skill development from pre-kindergarten through grade 12 in the shape of science, engineering, art and humanities. We want to develop content around all of the components of the SOFIA project. For example, we can incorporate topics of flight and lift, hydraulics, the atmosphere, the EM spectrum, computer programming, stellar composition and life cycles, optics, mapping and STEM careers, to name a few. A multifaceted project like SOFIA creates a natural connection between space science and biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, earth science, technology, history, career studies, art and programming.”

Rosenberger explained, “One of the most exciting opportunities for us as educators with a strong system of technology and support available to us is the possibility of creating e-Books for students. I plan to work on developing age-appropriate children’s books about the project, NASA and the atmosphere, all of which can be used as instructional tools and shared with other educators around the world. In keeping with our vision of spiraling content throughout the grade levels and disciplines, Mike will work with the Middle and Upper schools to develop similar age-appropriate products.”

Maccarone and Rosenberger also plan to work with other scientific and educational organizations to develop and share accessible educational content through partnerships, curriculum development, forums and other initiatives.

“We hope to develop a truly collaborative, global, integrated project that spans disciplines, grade levels and backgrounds, and we are eager to partner with SOFIA to do so,” Maccarone said.

He and Rosenberger went through a rigorous selection process to secure their spots in this program. Both educators are currently taking an online graduate-level astronomy course, which they will complete before beginning the program. The actual partnership with NASA involves spending a week visiting the Ames Research Center in California. The flights will launch from Ames, with the researchers spending two nights of flights on SOFIA. Both will occur in April or May.

Maccarone has been teaching science since 2005 and has developed curricula in physics, chemistry and math for schools in Newark, New Jersey. Rosenberger has participated in several research programs for education, including the Wildcoast International Conservation Team in Baja, Mexico, where she did research on the tidal movements and the foraging patterns of sea turtles. She has also coordinated environmental educational expeditions to Alaska for middle schoolers.

Avenues: The World School opened its first campus in New York in fall 2012. Serving children from nursery through grade 12, Avenues New York will be part of a system of schools—one school with campuses in 20 or more cities around the globe— that emphasizes a commitment to prepare students for citizenship in a world increasingly made smaller through transportation and technology.

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Press contact:
Bruce Bobbins, Dan Klores Communications (bruce_bobbins@dkcnews.com; 212-981-5190)
School representative:
Marcia Tingley, Director of Communications (mtingley@avenues.org; 212-524-9000)

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