NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock to tour Alabama schools

Posted: Monday, 04 April 2011

DOTHAN—NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock will discuss his recent mission aboard the International Space Station at schools around Alabama in a tour sponsored by Troy University’s Wiregrass Math and Science Consortium, the Alabama Education Association and the Alabama Civil Air Patrol.

The tour will start on Monday, April 11, in Boaz, Ala., where Wheelock will meet with about 1,000 students involved in the Civil Air Patrol’s Aerospace Connections in Education Program. The tour will include stops at schools in Birmingham and Montgomery and will conclude on April 14 at Ashford High School in Houston County where Wheelock will address about 1,300 students.

Wheelock is also scheduled to appear on the “Rick and Bubba Show” on Tuesday, April 12, during the 8 a.m. hour and will answer questions from students and teachers on the air.

The planned stops on Wheelock’s school tour are:
April 11
Snead Community College Bellville Center (Boaz, Ala.), 1 p.m.
April 12
Briarwood Christian Elementary School (Birmingham, Ala.), 10 a.m.
Liberty Park Elementary School (Vestavia Hills, Ala.), 1 p.m.
April 13
Hayneville Road Elementary School (Montgomery, Ala.), 9 a.m.
Bear Exploration Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology (Montgomery), 1 p.m.
April 14
Ashford High School (Ashford, Ala.), 9 a.m.

In all, the tour is expected to reach more than 5,000 students, said Sandra Armstrong, director of the Wiregrass Math and Science Consortium located at TROY’s Dothan Campus.

“It’s Doug’s desire to connect as many students in Alabama as possible with his almost six-month stay onboard the International Space Station,” Armstrong said.

Wheelock has been a close partner with the Consortium in promoting math, science and technology education in Alabama classrooms.

Consortium educators worked with Wheelock last year to develop an educational initiative based on Wheelock’s time onboard the ISS. The result was the “Al the Astronut” program, a series of lesson plans based on a kid-friendly peanut mascot designed in honor of Dothan’s National Peanut Festival. A cardboard cutout of the character was transported to the space station during Wheelock’s mission.

By following Al’s adventures aboard the station, students in grades K-8 learned about space travel, science and technology. Initially distributed to Wiregrass area teachers by the Consortium, Armstrong said the “Al the Astronut” lesson plans are now being distributed to teachers statewide via the AEA website.

For more information about Wheelock’s tour or the “Al the Astronut” program, contact Armstrong at sgarmstrong@troy.edu.

The Wiregrass Math and Science Consortium is a grant-funded joint venture of Troy University and local school systems with the goal of increasing student performance in math and science and to provide professional development for area K-12 teachers.