Saddleback Valley Unified teacher elevates science experiments on Zero-G flight

Beverly Berekian and other teachers in front of ZERO-G aircraft
Beverly Berekian (third from left) poses for a photo with other teachers who were selected to participate in a Zero-G Flight experience. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Crosby)

Defying the laws of gravity, Beverly Berekian, an integrated science teacher from Serrano Intermediate School, located in Lake Forest, recently brought her student-created experiments aboard a Zero-G flight. 

The seventh-grade teacher from the Saddleback Valley Unified School District was one of eight middle school teachers nationwide to receive an exclusive invitation to experience Zero-G, the world’s only Federal Aviation Administration-certified provider of weightless flights.

During the flight, the modified Boeing 727 G-FORCE ONE aircraft achieves weightlessness though precision aerobatic maneuvers known as parabolas, executed by highly skilled pilots. 

Beverly Berekian conducts experiment on ZERO-G flight
Beverly Berekian

Berekian, who also serves as a part-time Instructor at several local community colleges, first heard about the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium program in 2022, when she attended the Space Symposium in Colorado with fellow Space Foundation International Teacher Liaisons.

“It’s hard to put into words how I felt knowing the competition was tough to grab a spot,” said Berekian. “I was honored, grateful and humbled.” 

The program is funded by the NASA Flight Opportunities Program and the International Space Station National Laboratory.

The longtime educator boarded the aircraft in early March, equipped with a duffle bag filled with experiments generated by her classroom. She and the other teachers on board planned their activities for each parabola, where they would experience weightlessness for 20 to 30 seconds each time. 

While Berekian’s students couldn’t witness their experiments firsthand, they had the opportunity to watch videos of her exploring various scientific topics, including the behavior of lunar and Martian regolith, sloshing in space, and the interaction of liquids with different densities in microgravity. 

“I’ve learned that different types of matter behave differently in microgravity and it’s giving me an understanding of how space is explored and how things act in space,” Carson Little, a seventh-grade student, said.

Berekian describes this experience as creating an unparalleled bond between her and her classroom, deepening their investment in learning like never before.

“What this experience does is to inspire a mindset of inquiry and research-based experiments and encourages both teacher and student to come out of their comfort zones in order to do authentic research,” said Berekian. 

On April 9, the Serrano Intermediate teacher will speak at the Space Foundation’s symposium in Colorado.