Retired Teacher Still Inspiring Students Through MSIP
Retirement is a time to sit back, relax and enjoy life. For educators it’s a time to reflect upon a long and sometimes challenging career of inspiring young minds in the classroom. Retirement is their time to finally relax and get away from those wild kids. But that is not exactly how Jeff Collins is spending his retirement. He is still teaching students through NASA’s Mars Student Imaging Program at Arizona State University.
After 35 years in the classroom Jeff Collins, a retired teacher from Mercury Mine Elementary School is leading an afterschool program for 5th and 6th grade students to inspire young people through the unique environment offered by the Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP).
“I have always been fascinated by space and planets. I was at a Saturday workshop you guys were having and became interested in your Remote Sensing program. After the field trip to western Arizona, I was drawn to MSIP. I've been working with it every year since then,” said Collins.
Even after retirement he still finds value in teaching kids through MSIP. “I think the true value with MSIP is kids learn to work as a team and develop confidence that they can think their way through a problem or idea.”
Every teacher is different and for Jeff and his teaching style he found that MSIP required a little more freedom and time than what was allotted in a regular classroom setting. A real turning point came when he tried teaching MSIP with the afterschool program. The additional freedom that Jeff found working with the students in an afterschool program environment really fit well with the way that he wanted to teach MSIP.
“At Mercury Mine the 5th & 6th grades are departmentalized. The kids rotate classes/teachers for each subject. Even though I taught Science I only would see kids for 40 minutes at a time. One year we were able to arrange the kids schedule so the entire MSIP Team was in the same Science class. That was the year that 22 kids joined the Team. We had our meetings every day for 40 minutes.”
Geologist and MSIP Instructor, Leon Manfredi at Arizona State University has been working with Jeff for the past 3 years. Leon commented about working with Jeff's student MSIP teams saying, "I have worked with Jeff for three years and its been a great experience. He is very interested in getting feedback from previous groups and incorporating it into the current teams project. Even though these are younger students, [elementary] he is very hands off and the project is student led, giving the students valuable skills they can apply to future projects."
MSIP provides students with a unique opportunity and a chance to think about science differently. When students engage in a hands-on research project they are given the opportunity to work the problems on their own.
“I started teaching because I like working with kids. I've always enjoyed helping kids learn things that are important and interesting to them. I try to not answer their questions but rather show them how to find the answer. I think it teaches them to think.”
A key benefit to the Mars Student Imaging Project is that it allows students to develop essential critical thinking skills. By allowing students to work on real NASA problems and questions on their own, students that participate in the project are inspired to look at space research as a possible career choice. MSIP has the capability to inspire students to achieve more than maybe they knew was possible before they started the project. Real hands-on science projects like MSIP have the unique ability to open up new doors of understanding.
Collins commented, “..for 5th & 6th graders it's incredible to have an opportunity to work real science right along with real scientists and the real Space Program. MSIP is the real deal.”
The project is so inspriational that even a retired teacher still keeps bringing student teams back for more. That is a real lasting commitment. And that is why Jeff Collins is your newest Teacher Spotlight.