Space Exploration Educators Conference
What is SEEC?
Did you know that there was an entire conference devoted to teaching with space-related phenomena? During the first week of February I travelled to Houston, Texas to attend the 25th annual Space Exploration Educators Conference, or SEEC. I went to SEEC for the experience and also because I was presenting two sessions about curriculum related to the NASA X-plane program.
SEEC takes place at Space Center Houston, which is the visitor’s center/museum just outside NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC). Aside from the conference, Space Center Houston has an amazing array of space artifacts and exhibits and is it worth a visit if you are ever near Houston. They have the space shuttle Independence, the Apollo 17 lander, and an entire, assembled, Atlas V Rocket. Truly an embarrassment of riches if you’re a space nerd. They also had the largest wall of mission patches I’ve seen in their huge gift shop.
What’s the Experience Like?
The 3-day conference offers tours, professional development sessions, and other opportunities. Tours included several locations at JSC—including mission control center, the planetary analog test site (aka, rock yard), the space vehicle mockup facility, the robotics area, the space environment simulation section, and the neutral buoyancy lab (where the astronauts do underwater training). I got a chance to go to the Rock Yard and the Rocket Park Tour, which features a fully assembled Saturn V Rocket.
Tours are scattered throughout the rest of the schedule, which includes space-focused sessions for all educational levels. I only had a chance to go to a couple of sessions when I wasn’t presenting, but they were both very good. Sessions are offered by formal educators, informal educators, and some are in conjunction with a Subject Matter Expert (SME) from NASA.
They also had three amazing keynote lectures from Vanessa Wyche (Deputy Director of JSC), Dr. Alan Stern (Mission Lead for New Horizons which just flew by Ultime Thule), and Gene Krantz (the famous white team lead at Mission Control who oversaw the Apollo Missions). Each of the speakers spoke passionately about education, teachers who had shaped their lives, and mentioned how thrilled they were to talk to us.
Other cool experiences during the conference included a social for educators on Thursday night, a lovely banquet and dancing on Friday, and a chance to go to a pool for astronaut dive training. I went to all three, and I have to say, dive training was a blast!
But I Don’t Teach Space Science, Can I Still go?
This is an easy one: ABSOLUTELY, YOU SHOULD GO! Overall, this was a great conference. I would highly recommend it to all educators, even those who don’t directly teach space science, because there were sessions focused around every major scientific discipline, math, technology, engineering, literacy, history and more. It’s more about the phenomena of space/aeronautics as a hook to engage students and not necessarily teaching complicated orbital pathways (though you could find those types of sessions, too). As an added bonus, they offer scholarships for teachers to attend which is a nice option for those with limited or no professional funds.
Now, pictures! As always, click on the thumbnail to make them bigger and read the captions about what’s happening.