MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Winner of the What If Prize: Space Lesson Plan Competition for Educators Announced!

April 1, 2012

The What If Prize, Teachers Without Borders and MIT BLOSSOMS are pleased to announce the winner of the 2012 What If Prize space lesson plan competition for educators.  The top prize goes to Mr. David Black of the Walden School of Liberal Arts, Provo, Utah, for his lesson plan, The Parallax Activity: Measuring the Distances to Nearby Stars, for students in grades 11-12. Our competition judges appreciated how Mr. Black seamlessly tied space science, multiple engineering disciplines and mathematics into his lesson plan. The judges felt that while the subject matter was rooted in space sciences, the different applications of the concept to different problem areas would help to ensure that students could apply the lesson plan content in the context of their own interests. Mr. Black will be awarded a professional development scholarship of $2000 that may be applied toward the costs of a STEM-discipline activity of Mr. Black’s choosing.

The purpose of the competition is to recognize excellence and creativity in space science education and to produce useful, peer-reviewed and freely available space science instructional materials for educators worldwide.  This competition is being offered because recent events such as the earthquakes and corresponding complex emergencies in Japan, Haiti, China and Pakistan have demonstrated that space science and technology play an increasingly important role, directly and indirectly, in protecting the lives of people all over the planet. Educating young people about Earth in the context of its space environment is a critical investment in the ability of future generations to make responsible decisions that can protect lives.

The top lesson plans will be available at the What If Prize website. The competition organizers wish to thank all of our competition participants and volunteers, and we hope to see more teachers engaging students in the areas of space science and engineering as we look forward to the coming year.