Archived — Maria Nickel

Year: 2013 – Province: Manitoba

Certificate of Excellence Recipient

Maria Nickel

Woodlands Elementary
91 Porteous Avenue
Woodlands, Manitoba R0C 3H0

Principal: Val Ross
School Telephone: 204-383-5674
School website: Woodlands Elementary

Subjects and grades taught: Technology, Science, Math, Art for Kindergarten to Grade 8

In a small farming community in rural Manitoba, lives a teacher who is crazy for space—or space crazy, as some parents refer to her affectionately. Maria Nickel takes projects to new heights to promote science to her students and make them Canadian pioneers in space exploration.

Teaching approach

Artistic and innovative, Nickel incorporates a new theme each year into her teaching. Students remain engaged, and even excited, as they learn about fractions by building ice cream sundaes, or particle theory using marshmallows and syringes—they even design Mission Patches for Canadian Astronauts!

Outstanding achievements

  • Nickel submitted an implementation plan to the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) which would engage over 400 students and 17 teachers across the Interlake School Division. The plan was the first ever to be accepted without revisions in the program's history. The Interlake School Division is the first community in Canada to participate in the program. Throughout the ten-week program, students work with scientists to design and propose experiments to fly on the International Space Station. Two hundred proposals were submitted to the program throughout the division and three finalists were chosen, including Nickel's class.
  • The program garnered attention from regional, provincial and national media, and became a Global National feature story and a CBC National "Only in Canada" feature story.
  • Nickel secured over $20,000 from private and public-sector sources for the winning experiment to go to the International Space Station.
  • Nickel arranged for students in her school division to participate with their fellow students in the SSEP in a live video broadcast with the International Space Station. The broadcast involved the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC and NASA Mission Control in Houston. The Interlake School Division was the only Canadian participant and one of the students was chosen to ask a question.

Rave reviews

Maria has always been very passionate when it comes to any aspect of school. (…) This school year has been even more spectacular as Maria took her idea of having a space club to a new level. (…) Her love of space has transcended into opportunities for students far beyond our wildest imaginations.


It clearly took teamwork not from just teachers and administrators, but also a remarkable coalition of local businesses, organizations, and government to make participation happen in SSEP. And it was Maria pushing the community forward in this brave new direction (…). She literally took all these children to new heights.

Center Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (US)

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