Next Generation of Scientists is Inspired at an Early Age 2005-01-3104
The concept that plants and humans in a living system are mutually beneficial was communicated to 2nd - 12th grade students in science educational and outreach programs at Texas Tech University's Center for Space Science. Students traveled to the TTU horticulture greenhouse for a live program, which focused on research in the Engineering Development Unit. The research is funded by NASA's Advanced Life Support. During the program students were presented with the science of growing plants, how plants benefit humans in space, and baseline science vocabulary. A survey instrument was developed to assess student level of understanding of sciences, and their comprehension of living cycles, which work together to support manned space missions. The survey consisted of multiple-choice questions covering topics presented during the program. Likert questions were used to assess student's desire to travel in space, be an astronaut or a scientist, and their enjoyment of science and growing plants. The survey was administered before the program; immediately after the program; and a delayed test was administered in their classroom several weeks after the program. Student performance was scored according to correct responses in the survey. Responses were analyzed for changes over time using an analysis of variance with repeated measures. The results showed there was an overall improvement in knowledge from pre-program survey to post-program survey and that students recognize science is the main topic to be studied to expand for better space programs. Some elementary education students scored equal to or higher than secondary education students. Enthusiastic science teachers may drive student interest exhibited in the early grades. There is evidence that a teacher's attitude towards science and one's basic science knowledge is important to molding student's attitudes and interests in science.