UVU alum, science teacher rises to stratosphere | News @ UVU | News @ UVU

Who Says Werewolves Can’t Fly?

UVU alumna and Draper Park Middle School teacher Jennifer Moore (’07) proved they could. She was among a prestigious group of science teachers selected to travel to the edge of space. Muir and 24 other teachers from around the country left Earth as part of a NASA-affiliated teacher training program. She travels to the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) as a NASA Ambassador for Airborne Astronomy (AAA). The expedition involved multiple trips aboard a modified Boeing 747.

During the three 3-hour flights into Earth’s stratosphere, Muir and other science educators used the ship’s two-meter telescope to capture images of Earth’s moon. The crew mapped the lunar surface looking for water. The teachers shared the spacecraft with pilots, flight engineers and space engineers.

“It was just amazing,” Muir said. Seeing the telescope operators and pilots working together on board the flight was fantastic.”

Still, Muir’s dreams of touching the edge of space didn’t always seem likely.

“I was an at-risk kid in high school,” Muir said. “I was kind of a problem, so I didn’t graduate from high school right when I should have. But I pulled myself together after realizing, “Oh my God, what am I doing to myself?” I started going to school when I was 19, but it took me a while to get my degree because I was paying for college myself. “

Muir worked for the Provo School District while attending UVU. She said she had always been interested in teaching but didn’t know what course of study to pursue. Still undecided about her major, Muir’s life changed when she took an earth science class from UVU professor Michael Bunds.

“[Professor Bunds] he was just so enthusiastic and it made the subject very interesting,” Muir said. “I was terrified of taking a physics or chemistry course to fulfill my physics requirements. I didn’t want to do math and all that, but I ended up loving that class so much that I ended up taking a lot of chemistry and math classes.”

“It was a good thing for me,” Muir added. “It put me out of my comfort zone and after 16 years in education I can’t imagine teaching history or English. I shouldn’t have done that. I should be a science teacher.

Muir also drew inspiration from Dean Danny Horns, a professor at UVU, which at the time was called Utah Valley State College.

“Danny Horns came to my class toward the end of the semester and gave a little talk about the earth science program,” Muir recalls. “It was relatively new back then and it’s such a great program. I loved my experience in Earth Science and had a great time getting to know all of my professors. I still keep in touch with Danny today.

Now a middle school science teacher, Muir uses her experience on the SOFIA board to inspire and engage her students in STEM.

“In a few weeks, I’m going to start teaching what I’ve learned to my students,” Muir said. “The scientists, pilots and engineers on board SOFIA are used to talking with educators and helping us teachers get the most out of the experience. I got to sit behind the pilot for landing and take off which was amazing.

After his trip into the stratosphere, Muir returned from Palmdale, California to Draper, Utah to recount his adventures to his eager students.

“I wore my NASA jacket to school because they asked me to,” Muir said. “Now, of course, they want me to take a whole day just to show them pictures and talk [the SOFIA].

Muir said she hopes her experience and curriculum will inspire her students to reach for the stars.

“The point of the whole thing is to expose as many kids as possible to the NASA and STEM curriculum,” Muir said. “And the best way to do that is to give teachers experience. By gaining this experience, this information will be spread to hundreds of children over the years.

Learn more about UVU Earth Science program.

Learn more about NASA’s Ambassadors for Aerial Astronomy (AAA) program.

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