Space Technology, a Rhetoric  Strategy  Helping  Inspire Proficiency

These are excellent Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
lessons for gifted STEM students who are challenged rhetoric-wise.





Credit: NASA (Artist Pat Rawlings)



Project Authors:  Betty and Jerry Woodfill




NASA conducted a study, decades past, of what topics motivate youth most.  The survey found two subjects most popular, dinosaurs and space exploration.  Somehow, the distant past and distant future possess an inexplicable magnetism in a child’s formative years.  Additionally, this attraction, if nurtured, continued.   Often,  the  interest ultimately influenced  career selection.  Many an astronaut attested to youthful  reading of Tom Swift’s rocket exploits as leading to a career in aerospace.   While dinosaur study tends to ebb with maturity, the wonder of exploring  the Cosmos grows.  Certainly, popular media recognizes the appeal of dinosaurs and space with the STARWARS and STARTREK billion dollar cinema series.   And while PLANET OF THE APES films along with ONE MILLION, B.C. proved less profitable, nevertheless, that youthful fascination with antiquity carries over into adulthood.



A NASA study discovered space and dinosaur themes captured reader’s interest.


Below is an example of an electronic  game company’s use of the space/dinosaur theme for marketing appeal.



STARSHIP, the project, seeks to benefit reading and writing (rhetoric) similarly, not in the billion dollar monetary sense of Hollywood, but, more importantly, in enriching the nation’s rhetoric challenged youth (and adults) to become proficient readers and writers.  It’s goal seeks to go beyond a study/research project.  The ultimate purpose of STARSHIP is a permanent presence in all levels of reading/writing education, from developmental youth and adults to gifted readers/writers.  All groups will benefit, regardless of proficiency, when the STARSHIP program is employed. 

Click here to view an introductory video of STARSHIP'S plans and purpose.






1.      a. Past effort targeted on developmental education by NASA and other aerospace interests has been modest.

b.  Priority has always been given to exciting youth about careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). These efforts are designated as STEM motivational programs.

c. This program-concept places developmental reading/writing first with science, engineering, technology benefits as hoped for trickle down spinoffs rather than primary goals.

d. While world-wide leadership in engineering and science is extremely important as a NASA aim, the overwhelming need for Hispanic, Asian, African-American, and Anglo students facing impaired reading/writing skills begs for NASA participation in Developmental Education.

e.  To this end, specific resources and teaching schemes need be developed, explored, and promoted. Hundreds of existing NASA documents  already exist precluding resources to recreate them for this initiative.  Rather, reviewing what exists then adapting, advertising and promoting these resources to the developmental community would be cost effective above funding altogether new versions of products already existing.  (Example:  PDF files of the SPACE EDUCATORS’ HANDBOOK.)




1.       a. STARSHIP will teach traditional English rhetoric in the context of  space exploration themes. Included will be standard textbook topics: subject, verb, parts of speech, sentence structure and types, etc.  The chronology of the lessons will be likened to a mission to the Moon and back.  Additionally, analogy to space features, rockets, astronauts, etc. will serve as a backdrop to the STARSHIP course.  Yet, such will only be in the context of supplementing and enhancing English rhetoric basics.   The candidate topics listed below will be correlated with the chronology of  a basic entry level college English developmental study curriculum.   Likewise, the course will be adapted to a more rudimentary level for middle/high school application. 


The STARSHIP Project  Process

The following narrative is simply a possible approach of using STARSHIP. It has not been formerly presented by the authors to any educational entity.


  1. Phase One (First Year): Selection of Subject Content: There is no dearth of freely available space/aerospace content resources.  Rather, the challenge is to ferret from thousands of books, pamphlets, periodicals, reports, etc. those most advantageous to developmental studies.  STARSHIP will devote effort to fashion core lessons adaptable to a semester  course  for each student category (primary to adult, challenged to proficient) at the onset.

(See the candidate lessons listed below.)

The candidate materials will be from the voluminous NASA SPACE EDUCATORS’ HANDBOOK, and the public domain DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATORS’ HANDBOOK, a treasure trove of existing public domain space resources, resident on DVD and the Internet.  A syllabus/text will be authored based on lessons developed in the first year which will be augmented, refined, and amended throughout the project.  


  1. Phase Two (Second Year): will continue to adapt phase one’s selections/lessons  to developmental reading/writing course materials.  Included will be discussion questions, lecture notes, and, of course, exercises.  At the onset of phase two, the existing DEVELOPMENTAL EDUCATORS’ HANDBOOK, a college prep clone of the SPACE EDUCATORS’ HANDBOOK  will serve as the operative resource.  Proven developmental techniques will be applied to each of phase’s one’s selections creating a STARSHIP library consisting of classroom materials woven into a one semester STARSHIP course of 31 lessons.  A trial class will undertake the course, receiving appropriate developmental credit for having completed the coursework.  From the classroom experience the benefit of STARSHIP will be evaluated at the close of the second year.  Findings will be implemented during and in the third year of the project. 



  1. Phase Three (Third Year): The third phase is the development of one day STARSHIP Workshops for both educators as well as challenged readers/writers in the community.  An expurgated version of the second phase semester course will be taught visiting students, and the instructor workshops will deal with teaching STARSHIP in the classroom.  All materials will be provided to attendees on DVD as well as resident on a STARSHIP website funded, composed, and maintained by STARSHIP project resources. 


3a. STARSHIP funding for student/instructor one day workshops: Sponsors among the community will be sought to fund attendance scholarships. 

Few know that despite the wealth of potential knowledge resident in researching lunar materials, academic study would have been altogether modest had it not been for NASA funding such studies by laboratories, universities, etc.  Likewise, attempts to launch STARSHIP-like workshops at a public space venue/museum failed initially when offered as a pay-to-participate opportunity.  That experience led to the STARSHIP sponsor/benfactor approach. Paying for a one-day Developmental Educators’  STARSHIP workshop as a professional development option would be competitive with such existing efforts for math and science instructors.


3b. STARSHIP Venues for Phase 3.  While a space facility akin to Johnson Space Center, Space Center Houston, or a Challenger Center would seem most appropriate, other options might serve equally well.  For example, school classrooms, auditoriums, cafeterias, and even local movie theaters offer advantages based on proximity to attendees.  The STARSHIP program is best suited to instructional staffs resident in community colleges throughout the Houston Metroplex. A pilot program for San Jacinto College Central or other educational entity for students and instructors might be developed and executed through the STARSHIP project.  The advantage of a local venue is obvious, however, the excitement of Space Center Houston, JSC or a Challenger Center with their “hands-on” displays, artifacts, and supplemental attractions is appealing.  Those venues without such drawing factors can substitute space suits, space vehicles, and other attractions through a mobile visiting van from the Johnson Space Center.  The STARSHIP project might employ, on a trial basis, this approach as well as hosting the one-day workshop at a popular space venue (Space Center Houston, JSC, or Challenger Center at the George Observatory)





  1. Synergy between space technology exposure and reading/writing leading to both a career in science/engineering and/or enhanced competence for both gifted and challenged (developmental) students.
  2. Heightened awareness and attention paid by both gifted and challenged readers/writers to the importance of communication/study skills
  3. An attraction for parents and students to employ the STARSHIP approach for guidance/career benefits as well as reading/writing increased proficiency
  4. Another tool for language and language skills (ESL and ESOL as well) instructors (pre-school through college) to impart rhetoric learning to those challenged readers/writers in minority communities 
  5. A means of equipping technology education candidates with rhetoric skills required in the performance of technology related jobs (Ex. Drafting a test procedure or performing a test procedure from a written draft)


Schedule:  THE STARSHIP Project is for a three year term.  Phase One and Two  for the first two years.  Phase Three for the third year. 











 (Public Domain)



The above double layer DVD will be  the source content for the project.  Its content has been presented at numerous teacher conferences, workshops, and symposiums (space educational and developmental educational).


Evidence that the Developmental Educators’ Handbook is a worthy resource is shown below. These are statistics from the on-line web site for the past several years since inception.  The DEH DVD has the same content as the website.  Note the growth from several hundred requests in February of 2009 to approximately 11,000 per month in February of 2010.  Also note the popularity of the various content areas, i.e., that the space resources and developmental resources are approximately equal.








Candidate One Hour Topical Lessons:

(content for 31 one hour class sessions)

Note: All content can be read on an I-Phone from Internet


Adult Developmental Studies:


1.      Comparing Buzz Lightyear and Buzz Aldrin – Already Exists

2.      Astronaut  Santa Descriptive Paper – Already Exists

3.      Science Fiction : Space Technology Learning – Complete

4a.      Comic Book Space Science Lesson -  Already Exists (Class Lesson One)

4b.      Comic Book Space Science Lesson -  Already Exists (Class Lesson Two)

5.      From the Earth to the Moon Novel/Movie  Compare Novel to the Movie Trailer Clip - Complete

6.      The Apollo 13 Rescue Comic and Cartoon Video; Watch Video or read the comic then answer questions - Complete

7.      Olympics on the Moon  (SEH)   - Complete

8.      Rube Goldberg Launch System Instruction Composition - Complete

9.      Listen to 10 Minute YouTube video on Apollo 13 as a narrated comic then answer questions.  (COMPLETE)

10.  The Moon Landing was a Hoax  COMPLETE

11.  The Apollo 13 Hanks/Howard Movie as a Developmental Project – Answer Questions COMPLETE

12.  The Eagle Has Landed (Coming of Age novel) – Complete on-line and on DEH DVD

13.  JFK’s Rice Stadium Speech as a Project: JFK’s prediction vs. fulfillment - YouTube  - Complete

14.  Why explore space opinion paper following viewing of 5 minute video - Complete

15.  Read about Pluto being removed as a planet. Prompt exercise. Complete  Make a case pro and con  - TBD

16.  Compare Columbus to Neil Armstrong by reading both biographies. COMPLETE

17.  Compare the voyages of Columbus and Apollo 13 after hearing lecture or reading story. (SEH).  Complete

18.  Rewrite a page of FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON in modern prose. - Complete

19.  Moon Mulligan, A Million Dollar Duff.  Complete

20.  The Spalding 7 and the Titliest 3:23 COMPLETE

21.  Read the science fiction story EGOCENTRIC ORBIT and comment. (DEH) COMPLETE

22.  Compare the “Barnyard Shuttle” to the NASA Shuttle (employs actual models or DVD/Internet photos) Complete

23.  Rocket Ship Rhetoric: Comparison of rocket ship to parts of speech and other grammar features. (two lessons: the first treats  parts of speech, the second deals with sentences and paragraphs,  lessons should be conducted in the first several class sessions as a grammar review) (Complete)

24.  Buzz Lightyear interactive game/narrative (Student writes a summary description of Buzz’s actions after watching a video clilp from the game. This process introduces student to summarizing observed actions.)

Software used is: Disney PIXAR’s  Toy Story 2, Action Game.

25.  Compare Technology of advertised magazine articles featured in July, 1969 to same in 2010 – Complete

26.  Discuss the lives of the American Astronaut John Glenn and the Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. How were they alike?  Complete

27.  Moon Race Money: Recreate the history of the space race from images on both sides of a “bogus” eleven dollar bill.(Complete)

28.  Science Fiction/Space Alien Descriptive Paper (Complete)


Youth Developmental Reading/Writing Studies

(content for 30 one hour class sessions)


1. Ivan and Little Star Presentation  - Exists

2. Animal Astronaut Space Agency Program – Exists

3. Apollo 13 Comic – Exists

4. Space Coloring Book – Exists

5. The Moon Landing was a Hoax  COMPLETE

6. Naming the Planets in order exercise - Exists

7. Buzz Lightyear vs. Buzz Aldrin – Complete

8. Compare the “Barnyard Shuttle” to the NASA Shuttle. COMPLETE            

9. Christa’s Lost Lessons exercises reading. (Note: These are posted on the Challenger Center website.)-  Exists

10. Read the Aero and Space Comic and answer questions – TBD

11. After reading the Wright Brothers’ Comic, compose their biography.  COMPLETE

12. From a 1960s magazine about  Apollo 11, compare the ads for products then and now. Complete

13. Compare Christa McAuliffe to Amelia Earhart. COMPLETE  

14. Find an event in space history on your birthday and write a paragraph about it.  (SEH)  COMPLETE

15.Moon Mulligan, A Million Dollar Duff.  Complete

16. Read the biographies of the seven original astronauts and select your favorite. Why? COMPLETE

17. Rocket Ship Rhetoric: Comparison of a rocket ship to parts of speech and sentences to Apollo missions/program. COMPLETE  (3- 5 lessons)

18. Comic Book Space Science -  (Complete – Lessons One) and (Lesson Two)

19. Rube Goldberg Launch System Instruction Composition – COMPLETE

20. Moon Race Money: Recreate the history of the space race from images on both sides of a “bogus” eleven dollar bill. COMPLETE

21.  Science Fiction/Space Alien Descriptive Paper. COMPLETE

22.  Science Fiction Art Flaws;  Complete







For information, please contact Betty Woodfill, Developmental Education Instructor, San Jacinto College (Central), Pasadena, Texas.


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