Elise Campbell has been a teacher since 1990, working with children in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. Since then, Campbell, who has a background in music, including playing in the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra for 32 years and teaching music, has found a passion for STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
Campbell has been fortunate enough to also share this passion with her daughter, Kirsi Kuutti, a Duluth East High School graduate of 2013 and former Daredevils robotics team member.
Campbell, who is working as an Itasca Area Schools Collaborative teacher in the Greenway school district, was a mentor for the Daredevils when her daughter was on the team. She volunteered writing a blog called “The Mom’s Blog,” which was originally created to help the parents understand the projects, team and activities. This morphed into her serving as the media mentor and overseeing the students working on social media, writing for awards, running a website and more, Campbell said.
It was this mentoring experience that gave Campbell more and more ideas of how to incorporate STEAM into her elementary school classrooms.
“My students in my classrooms were very inspired by the high school students and even did a project with one another,” Campbell said.
Wanting to learn more about STEAM and further her education, Campbell said she started searching for professional development opportunities. That’s when she came upon an opportunity at Space Center Houston. Campbell said the teacher training she went to at the center was amazing, and they asked her to apply to be a speaker at the Space Exploration Educators Conference.
This annual international conference attracts formal and informal educators of all levels from around the world, said Phyllis Friello, education manager at Space Center Houston.
“It’s a gathering of space science education enthusiasts who have the shared passion for bringing the latest and greatest work and research in space into the classroom,” Friello said.
Educators can present curriculum ideas at the conference that other teachers could bring into the classroom, and with COVID-19, if the curriculum could be taught virtually, it was even better. The educators who are chosen to present are paired with a NASA scientist, and it just so happens, Campbell’s daughter is one.
Kuutti is a full-time employee at NASA Johnson Space Center and is training to work in Mission Control. She volunteers in education to “pay it forward after finding my love for STEAM during my educational journey.”
In February, Campbell paired up with her daughter, and they presented during the virtual conference this year. Campbell presented an interactive session titled “Sing, Solve, and Unite.” During the session, they emphasized the human aspect in human spaceflight and included two Artemis II Mission-themed songs, solving everyday problems in an extraordinary setting of space.
During the conference, Campbell set up a laptop in her kitchen and sang the two songs while doing the motions along with it. One song is a chant while the other is sung to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”
“We had a great time, and we had good feedback from our participants. They’re always very excited about seeing new literature and having songs that they can do right away in the classroom,” Campbell said. “With distance learning, all of the things we did could be used in that format, so that was very exciting for the teachers, too.”
Because the conference was virtual this year, educators can still register for the conference, watch the recorded session and have access to all of the educational literature by visiting spacecenter.org/education/seec.