Collaboration Across Disciplines Inspires Deeper Understanding

 In pictures-of-practice

Julie Gabrovic’s work as a NASA Endeavor Fellow Alumna and Science Lab teacher at Wekiva Elementary School in Longwood Florida, is a model for excellence in collaborating with peers when it relates to STEM learning. She sets the bar when it comes to bridging content in and between classrooms in her school for deeper understandings and ultimate learning experiences for students. She created a “GPS Unit”, a series of classroom lessons that integrates science and social studies (geography) themes, and incorporates technology as part of a collaboration with her colleague, Mr. Greg Prose, who teaches physical education.

Ms. Gabrovic believes her GPS Unit is cutting-edge and relevant for students because global positioning systems (GPS) are becoming so widely used in our everyday lives. “Most students have seen a GPS unit of some sort, whether in their car, on their cell phone or on television. However, the majority of them don’t understand how they work and the wide scope of uses for GPS technology.” Ms. Gabrovic’s lessons are packed with authentic and meaningful information and activities including satellites, Earth rotation and revolution, longitude and latitude, elevation, and map reading – content featured in several NASA Endeavor courses. “My experience with the NASA Endeavor courses has given me so many resources which have allowed me to create and implement many new and exciting programs and curricular units. In particular, the online sharing with other cohorts of Endeavor Fellows and each course’s resource pages have been instrumental.”

Ms. Gabrovic started her teaching career as a physical education teacher. She has enjoyed sharing and integrating STEM ideas with her fellow teachers. Activities are planned together, culminating with a physical education lesson where students complete an actual geocaching and fitness course around their school campus. After the successful writing and implemention of the GPS Unit, Ms. Gabrovic, along with the physical education department and gifted teachers at her school, were awarded a grant to purchase additional handheld GPS units. They plan to expand the GPS work in the school.

In addition to circumnavigating her campus with students, Ms. Gabrovic sought out an additional collaborative opportunity by creating a Science Club. She wanted to embark on a NASA Engineering Design Challenge after learning about them in her work with Endeavor. Her 4th grade afterschool Science Club launched their first design challenge. They focused on Bottle Rockets. Each team was challenged to build one that would reach higher and straighter than their competition. Teaming with technology teacher, Mrs. Karyn Cook, students created Animoto videos, a Web 2.0 tool, to share the experience during a Parent Showcase. The videos documented the students’ learning process throughout the stages of the Engineering Design Challenge.

Ms. Gabrovic used part of her Endeavor stipend to purchase two Flip digital video cameras so her students could record and share their work. Each NASA Endeavor Fellow receives a stipend for a needed resource or technology tool for his or her classroom in order to enhance the ability to integrate STEM successfully.

Ms. Gabrovic continues to take advantage of NASA Endeavor’s offerings and looks forward to her Summer 2011 Endeavor Internship at NASA Goddard. She is partnering with the Seminole State College Planetarium and director Derek Demeter in the development of Earth and Space assets for the planetarium, a place she hopes to soon visit with her students.