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Two Santa Clarita Science Teachers Gear Up For NASA Flight To Upper Stratosphere

Cody Kennedy and Dustin Lengning, two science teachers based in Santa Clarita, are gearing up to board their NASA Flight to the upper stratosphere as Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA). 

While the exact date and time of their NASA flight remains unknown, the two Santa Clarita science teachers are in the process of gaining the knowledge necessary to explore the upper stratosphere. 

“It’s not simply going to be a spectator experience,” Lengning said in a previous interview with KHTS. “We are going to be conducting research alongside professional NASA scientists and that’s why we need to gather as much knowledge as possible beforehand.”

The two science teachers are setting out to complete their AAA training which includes blended-learning professional development through webinars, asynchronous content learning and a hands-on curriculum workshop as well as a STEM immersion experience at a NASA astronomical observatory facility, according to a statement from The Search For Intelligent Life Institute (SETI).

“Over its history, our NASA-funded AAA program has impacted tens of thousands of high school students through the immersive and inspirational experience of their teachers,” said Bill Diamond, CEO of SETI. “The powerful STEM program will allow the SETI Institute to help bring NASA science into classrooms across the country.”

See Related: Castaic High Teacher To Become NASA Astronomy Ambassador

Last year, three Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors from Santa Clarita boarded the SOFIA after spending a week in Palmdale, training in planetary science and astrophysics while working out of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, according to Shelley Turski, science teacher at La Mesa Junior High.

“Our immersion week with SOFIA was truly a fabulous experience,” Turski from La Mesa Junior High said regarding her training process last year. “I learned so much about how astronomy is researched, how the telescope works and how the sensors are operated. And I see a lot of connections to my classroom in the area of STEM jobs and career pathways that even I never knew about.”

With the current science curriculum abiding by national standards for science, Kennedy and Lengning are planning to bring back their knowledge from the stratosphere into his classroom. 

“In my curriculum now, we learn about infrared waves, really the whole electromagnetic spectrum, and this experience with infrared astronomy will provide more tools to bring back to the kids,” Lengning said. “Science is all about application and people study this throughout their lifetimes about how infrared astronomy changes our lives and the universe.”

See Related: Santa Clarita Valley International Charter School Teacher Selected As NASA Astronomy Ambassador

The SOPHIA aircraft flies above 99 percent of the earth’s water vapor while recording astronomical data that is impossible to receive through telescopes on the ground, giving researchers the best opportunities to view outer space, according to NASA officials. 

Both are well-known for developing school projects that their students anticipate inside and outside the classroom, the teachers are soon able to bring their knowledge from the stratosphere into the classroom.

Once the SOFIA mission is completed, NASA provides the teachers with a physical science curriculum module created by the SETI Institute to share with their classes and students with past evaluations showing that students whose teachers participated in the program have shown increased STEM performance, according to SETI officials.

To read more about the AAA program and the NASA flight, click here.


This story is brought to you by friends at the California Credit Union.

California Credit Union is a trusted partner of the education community and proud sponsor of the KHTS Education Corner, KHTS Sacramento Road Trip, SCV Education Foundation and the WiSH Education Foundation to support programs that directly aid students and teachers throughout Santa Clarita Valley. California Credit Union is a federally insured, state-chartered credit union founded in 1933 that serves public and private school employees, community members and businesses across California. California Credit Union offers a full suite of consumer, business and investment products and services, including exclusive services for school employees, comprehensive consumer checking and loan options, personalized financial planning, business banking and leading‐edge online and mobile banking. For more information contact Mariam Nasiry, Senior School & Community Development Officer at MNasiry@ccu.com. You may also visit our local Valencia Branch located at 24343 Magic Mountain Pkwy., Santa Clarita, CA 91355, or any of our 25 locations throughout Southern California. Learn more about California Credit Union at www.ccu.com and follow the credit union on Instagram® or Facebook® @CaliforniaCreditUnion. Ready to open an account today? Click to Here to Apply!

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Two Santa Clarita Science Teachers Gear Up For NASA Flight To Upper Stratosphere

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About Rachel Matta

Born and raised in Santa Clarita, Rachel Matta has always had a love for writing and media. The first time she ever smiled was actually while she was laying next to her mom as she flipped through the pages of a magazine. Upon graduating from high school in 2019, she chose to major in both journalism and political science at College of the Canyons with the intention of concentrating in news reporting. She began her journey at KHTS as a news intern in the summer of 2020 and officially joined the newsroom in the spring of 2021, intending to move forward with compassion and inquisition.