Dr. Usha Rajdev
Dr. Usha Rajdev brings expertise in teaching math and science methodology with an emphasis on identifying errors and misconceptions in mathematics. Her integrated approach to teaching math and science has been recognized by NASA's Goddard Space Center. She was fortunate to be selected by the Center to send an experiment, on the germination process of a variety of beans, up on the space shuttle Atlantis in 1999. She turned her classroom into a space shuttle and launched her students into orbit through simulating mission control and a space shuttle by using cardboard as walls. The cardboard was covered with dials and maps. The student astronauts wore full spacesuits -- white scrubs donated by a paint vendor and white football helmets on loan from a local high school.
Dr. Rajdev enhances her students learning through hands-on teaching using Science Technology Engineering and Math. She invites NASA's Aerospace Educational Specialists from the Goddard Space Center visit the Science Methodology class every semester and provides professional development training related to the Earth and Space Unit. She has been collaborating with NASA Education for the past seven years. Content learned by the pre-service teachers are incorporated into the activities in their own teaching.
In 2014, Dr. Rajdev's students and Fort Belvoir Elementary School (FBES) children communicated with astronauts in space. This event was coordinated through Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), a cooperative venture of NASA, the American Radio Relay League, the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation, and other international space agencies that schedule radio contacts between astronauts and schools. The proposal put forward by Dr. Rajdev and her colleague, Dr. Bubar, working in partnership with Ft. Belvoir Elementary School, was one of the few in the country that resulted in an invitation to make contact with the space station in 2014. To prepare the children, FBES STEM teacher initiated lessons leading up to the contact include learning about the need for thermal protection on the spacecraft; the history and purpose of space stations; robots, like the Mars rovers and landers; lunar explorations; satellites and orbits; and the atmosphere and condition in outer space. The children conducted hands-on experiments to better understand the material with Dr. Rajdev's pre-service teachers helping them. She started the first after school K-3, "Sprouting STEMs" at a local Catholic School, where her pre-service teachers conducted hands-on activities through STEM. Dr. Rajdev and her pre-service teachers participate every semester at STEM nights conducting activities at the partner schools for the children and their parents.
Dr. Rajdev also led 17 graduate students to India where they taught children and pre-service teachers in Porbandar, Gujarat. Dr. Rajdev organized the study-abroad experience with students from her Math and Science Methodology course. In Porbandar, they worked with the children and shared their teaching methods with Bachelor of Education students enrolled at the Dr. Virambhai R. Godhaniya College. The materials included the makings for flip books about the lunar phases, as well as components for experiments to explore the water cycle, the parts of a tree, and plant classification. Marymount students brought a new approach to the B.Ed. students there with hands-on methodologies.
She has been part of Marymount's faculty since 2008. She is a recipient of the Faculty of the Year 2012 Service Award, the 2012 Virginia Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator Award, and the 2012 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator Award. Dr. Rajdev was one of five educators who use environmental education as a tool to teach core subjects and foster environmental stewardship and was named the 2012 National Outstanding Educators by Project Learning Tree, an environmental education program of the American Forest Foundation. Dr. Rajdev and Fort Belvoir Elementary School earned the Association of Teacher Educators in Virginia 2014 School/University Partnership Award. She was recently recognized and awarded 2014 STEM Leadership Award by the International Association of STEM Leaders, for her STEM program and activities conducted at local area schools and the involvement of Marymount students.
She has also been selected for a Fulbright Specialist Project in India to conduct professional development workshops with faculty and undergraduates in Education, and develop a community-wide service-learning project to promote literacy. The program focused on teaching PreK-7 grades through an integrated approach. The purpose was to help students in math and science methodology to further their understanding of how a diverse population with little concept of U.S. teaching methods approaches learning mathematics and science concepts. In 2013 Dr. Rajdev also presented a paper titled "A Hunger for Learning in Porbandar, Gujarat, India (Gandhi's Birthplace): Fulbright Specialist Program" at the Mediterranean Conference for Academic Disciplines, the International Journal of Arts & Sciences' annual refereed conference, in Valletta, Malta. The paper focused on a five-week service-learning project that Dr. Rajdev conducted in Porbandar in July and August 2012, financed by a Fulbright Specialist Program grant.
Dr. Rajdev is also a counselor for Marymount's chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the international Education honor society and faculty advisor for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Student Chapter.