Cranbrook teacher recognized as ‘Science Super Hero’

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published January 3, 2018

 Ashlie Blackstone Smith, an eighth-grade physical science teacher at the Cranbrook Kingswood School for Girls, was recently named a Science Super Hero by the Science Channel.

Ashlie Blackstone Smith, an eighth-grade physical science teacher at the Cranbrook Kingswood School for Girls, was recently named a Science Super Hero by the Science Channel.

Photo provided by Sydney Baldwin

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Ashlie Blackstone Smith, an eighth-grade physical science teacher at the Cranbrook Kingswood School for Girls, has made it her mission to instill in her students a love for science.

 She is now being honored for that work by the Science Channel, which named her one of its monthly Science Super Heroes.

“This is a big shock,” remarked Smith. “My brother nominated me a year ago, and I was contacted at the start of December that I would be one of the selectees for the month. I was amazed.”

Three Science Super Heroes are nominated each month from any of the following categories: Super Stars, who are CEOs or professionals; Shooting Stars, those who show an ongoing passion for the sciences; and Rising Stars, who are college students. Each Science Super Hero is highlighted on-air on the Science Channel the first Thursday of the month and across all Science Channel social platforms for the entire month.

Additionally, the Shooting Stars and Rising Stars receive a $2,000 gift card to Global Giving, where they can donate to a charity of their choice.

“For 20 years, Science Channel has cultivated unique programming from diverse talent and producers, making us the destination for space, technology and all things science for a new generation,” said Marc Etkind, general manager of the Science Channel. “The Science Super Heroes initiative honors the individuals from our audience and communities around the country that are igniting passion for science and encouraging the next generation of innovators, problem solvers and game changers.”

Science Channel officials said they want to single out people who are working hard to exemplify their mission to educate and foster a passion for science and technology.

The Science Channel launched Science Super Heroes Oct. 1, 2016, to celebrate the network’s 20th anniversary, said Etkind. “(The) Science Channel celebrates the innovative and courageous women, like Ashlie Blackstone Smith, who are transforming the STEM fields and forging paths for future generations.” STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

Channel representatives said a key component to Smith being chosen was the extra work she takes on to get her students interested in science-related topics and the passion she clearly demonstrates.

“I’m constantly learning, myself,” said Smith. “I’m a big proponent of encouraging girls to experience science and feel it in their real life. ... You always get a lot of boys interested in things like space or coding, so I take an extra effort to try and expose girls to things that could possibly interest them.”

Smith always goes the extra mile to ensure she is expanding her own knowledge and finding new and interesting ways to share that knowledge with her students.

“Two years ago, I was selected to go down to space camp in Alabama, which allowed me to learn about new concepts and new techniques to teach my students,” said Smith. “I’m a representative with the Center for Advancement of Science and Space. I won the Alan Shepard Award earlier this year for my work and the technology I’ve incorporated into my classes. Right now, we’re mimicking a plant-based science experiment that was sent up to space by NASA.”

She also has taken to new teaching techniques and new technologies to better help her students learn.

“One of the things I do is called ‘flipping my classroom,’” explained Smith. “This means my students will go home and watch these eight- or nine-minute lecture videos online on content we’re learning about in class. This means that when they arrive in the classroom the next day, they already have the lecture out of the way, and we have more time for experiments and hands-on activities.”

Smith said she loves learning more about science and that there are so many rich areas of the topic to explore. She wants kids to see that so they are equipped and allowed to pursue their own passions.

“A lot of kids turn away from science prematurely the same way you see a lot of kids turn away from math,” said Smith. “Science can seem dry to kids, but if they get their hands dirty and experience all the neat things going on in science right now, like breakthroughs in medicine or testing rockets to go to Mars, they will stay interested.”