Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

Terry Mynatt and Marci Ward

Teachers Terri Mynatt of Venetie and Marci Ward of Fairbanks, during a session at the Space Exploration Educators Conference.

A teacher in Venetie is helping students learn to do research that is helping NASA and space exploration.

Terri Mynatt is an elementary teacher in the remote community of Venetie, which is located on the north side of the Chandalar River, 45 miles northwest of Fort Yukon. She has been a teacher there for the past seven years.

Earlier this month, she attended Space Center Houston’s Space Exploration Educators Conference. This is a nonprofit science and space exploration learning center that offers educators of all disciplines, from kindergarten through 12th grade, a three-day authentic learning experience based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This year, the conference focused on future crewed missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Other educators also attended from around the world. As a result of that, Mynatt and her class will host visiting students from Mexico, in Venetie. They will all work together doing robotics and ice research. Later in the year, Venetie students will travel to Mexico and then travel to Space Center Houston to learn side-by-side with students from around the country.

“I was selected to be the Space Exploration Educator Crew and that is how the connections were made with the other space science teachers from other states and countries,” Mynatt wrote, in an email. “It is my goal to get the kids excited about school through science.”

Here’s a peek at some of the hands-on activities she participated in: designing 3D and immersive virtual reality planetary habitats; coding drones and robots and developing experiments that NASA will launch into space; exploring what it takes to become an astronaut, including psychological and nutritional needs for long-term missions; and designing drones for Mars.

Space Center Houston also offers behind-the-scenes look at some of the rarest space artifacts in the world, from flown space vehicles to historic rockets.

Mynatt already works with Dr. Katie Spellman, Dr. Chris Arp and Dr. Elaina Sparrow on Fresh Eyes on Ice civilian research and recently complete a four-year Winterberry Study, funded by NASA.

The first year she became a member of the SEEC crew, in 2017, Yukon Flats School District funded Space Center Houston educators travel to John Fredson School in Venetie. The entire student body spent a week learning about space and then traveled to Houston themselves.

This year, she said, the Alaska Space Grant Foundation has contributed funds for the students to travel to Houston. She has also worked closely with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Yukon Koyukuk School District and Alaska State Science Grants, the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments and Carrs-Safeway grant.

See the video online of kids doing research and sharing that research with NASA scientists at

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.