Visiting the diner made famous by Jerry Seinfeld and his TV friends was a touristy perk for the group of local teachers who recently traveled to New York City.
But snapping photos in front of the iconic "Tom's Restaurant" sign paled in comparison to what the teachers experienced right next door.
That's where select teachers from Glenbard District 87 and Jay Stream Middle School in Carol Stream spent the day, April 28, brainstorming with NASA scientists at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies – which is immediately adjacent to the restaurant.
"I had never had an experience like this and never thought I would," said Glenbard West teacher Eric Lindberg of working with the scientists.
Lindberg, an AP environmental science teacher, was one of 10 teachers from the four District 87 high schools and Jay Stream to attend the Climate Change in the Classroom workshop.
The scientists prepared lesson plans related to climate change, then worked with the teachers to adapt those plans for their classrooms, keeping in mind Next Generation Science Standards and Common Core State Standards.
Lindberg helped develop a model-building exercise that would demonstrate to his students the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming. His group included a NASA expert and fellow environmental science teachers Deb Karavites-Uhl of Glenbard North and Dave Krodel of Glenbard East.
The scientists excelled at breaking down the information and putting it into terms a layman can understand, Krodel said.
"These guys, they are not your stereotypical lab rats," he said.
Bringing the experience back to the students has been just as rewarding as the trip itself.
Lindberg started by asking his Glenbard West students to open a conversation about the topic on the school's intranet platform. A liaison from the NASA research center then selected some of the student's posts and had the scientists provide feedback.
In short, high school students in Glen Ellyn got to work with NASA scientists in New York City.
"I don't know if gets any better than that," Lindberg said. "And the kids are pretty excited about it."
Ray Jansky plans to open that line of communication for his Jay Stream science students. He attended the workshop with a pair of Jay Stream social studies/English teachers – Pamela Goble and Nicole Dodendorf. They hope to start building a cross-curricular plan when District 93 meets later this month to discuss implementation of Next Generation Science Standards.
Part of the goal is to use technology to connect various classrooms with each other and the scientists. And after 27 years teaching science at the school, Jansky knows the value of finding experts to engage students.
"You can hear a lot of things from your teacher, but hearing from another source, that's the ticket," Jansky said.
Relaying the classroom experiences back to NASA is another key component of the interaction.
The AP students at Glenbard East finished this school year by completing the student-driven experiments inspired by Krodel's experience in New York. They used video and photos to document their research and shared it with NASA.
Lindberg spent the spring grooming his Glenbard West juniors to embrace the project as seniors in the fall, at which time they'll provide the NASA program with feedback.
"The kids are excited about that," Lindberg said.
Meet the teachers
Ten local teachers recently worked with NASA scientists in New York City:
Glenbard North: Brian Loynachan, physics/biology; Joe Kulesza, physics; Deborah Karavites-Uhl, AP environmental science
Glenbard South: Michael Douglas, special education science
Glenbard East: David Krodel, AP environmental science; Alexis Eckersall, Earth and space science
Glenbard West: Eric Lindberg, AP environmental science
Jay Stream: Nicole Dodendorf, English; Pam Goble, social studies; Ray Jansky, science