NASA astronauts at GEMS schools for first ever Middle East visit

Published February 22nd, 2010 - 10:36 GMT

This week sees the first official NASA visit to the Middle East and the first visit to schools in the region as two operational astronauts take time out between space flights to share their experiences and expertise with students at six GEMS Education schools in Dubai, UAE.

Visiting NASA astronauts Captain Barry E. ‘Butch’ Wilmore and Dr Robert L. Satcher Jr have recently returned from the 31st shuttle flight to the international space station.

Andrew Gregory, Planetarium Director at GEMS World Academy, home to the only school-based planetarium in the region, says, “GEMS Education has made a clear commitment to integrating space studies into the curriculum.  Not only does study of the universe contribute to each student’s understanding of the world around them, it also helps to raise their aspirations, fuels their desire to know more, and ensures they look outward as scholars and individuals.”

Mr Gregory has been instrumental in securing the presence of the NASA astronauts in Dubai.  “This week’s visit from our two NASA astronauts is an incredible experience for GEMS students and we are truly privileged that NASA has chosen Dubai for its first schools visit in the Middle East,” he said.

Over the course of four days (21 – 24 February, 2010) the astronauts will visit six Dubai schools: GEMS Wellington International School, GEMS Dubai Modern High School, GEMS World Academy, Dubai American Academy, GEMS Royal Dubai School, and GEMS Jumeirah College Dubai. 
In building this relationship with NASA, GEMS Education is working with the UAE based Arab Youth Venture Foundation (AYVF), which is the only organisation in the Gulf with an official NASA agreement to access and deliver educational content, created by NASA. 

Mr Gregory says, “We are thrilled to be working with the Arab Youth Venture Foundation.  Having the chance to learn first-hand about space travel and the contributions that space exploration has made to our daily lives really is something special. GEMS Education looks forward to continuing to work with NASA and AYVF to ensure that more of our students have the opportunity to take part in NASA projects, scholarships and activities here in the UAE and in the United States.”
Lisa LaBonte, CEO of the Arab Youth Venture Foundation says, “As an innovative force in the education sector in the UAE, GEMS represents a fantastic fit that enables us to cultivate diverse student talent for NASA educational projects and exchange programs at the K-12 level."

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The visit by the American space agency astronauts follows the successful visit by GEMS students from Dubai Modern High School to NASA’s headquarters in Washington DC, USA in December last year.  GEMS students undertook missions, built rockets and heat shields, designed a space suit, took part in scuba dives, completed leadership and teamwork training, and even conducted flight training exercises during their time there.  A second group of students will visit NASA headquarters in March for a similar educational programme and exceptional learning experience.


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