Whitworth Communications

For Immediate Release

May 20, 2003

Whitworth Professors Present Web-Based Teaching Module at NASA Conference

Educators teach students to reach for the stars, but two Whitworth science professors are aiming for the stars as well. Whitworth College, recently named a NASA Opportunities for Visionary Academics (NOVA) institution of higher education, was invited to participate in the NOVA Leadership Development Conference last February at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston, Texas.Visiting Professors Donna Patey (Physics) and Andy Vaithilingam (Chemistry) gave presentations on their web-based teaching module, "Protecting the Space Shuttle from Heat: Which Material Would You Choose?"

The professors began developing the teaching module in June 2002 at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif. Their innovative web-based module promotes critical thinking by Whitworth students who are taking courses ranging from a physical-science inquiry course, taken by elementary-education majors, to a material-science course, taken by non-science majors.

"When students can visualize the application of a particular concept they are learning, enthusiasm for the process is inherent; learning is then seen as an exciting task, rather an awkward one," Patey says.

The module features students who work in teams of four. The team members review information presented on the module website, analyze textual and numerical data, and engage in critical thinking through group discussion. The groups then present their findings on which material works best for a tile used to protect space shuttles from extreme heat.

The module encourages interdisciplinary thinking and requires an interplay of physics, chemistry and biology knowledge, as well as communication and critical-thinking skills. Patey and Vaithilingam suggest that when educators teach to illustrate the "excitement of content," students get involved in their own learning process, ensuring greater retention and assimilation of knowledge.

The module will be made available through the NASA/NOVA network for use by national and international educational institutions. To view the teaching module, visit www.whitworth.edu/physics/classes/ns201_dpatey.

To view the poster presented at the NASA conference by Patey and Vaithilingam, visit www.whitworth.edu/physics/classes/ns201_dpatey/NASAPoster.pdf.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,200 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.


Julie Riddle, public information specialist, Whitworth College, (509) 777-3729 or jriddle@whitworth.edu.

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