NASA Selects Proposals to Engage and Educate the Public

Press Release From: NASA HQ
Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2004


NASA's Office of Education selected 11 proposals to assist the agency in developing innovative ways to engage and educate the public and inspire the next generation of explorers through the Vision for Space Exploration.

The proposals span the breadth of educational opportunities. Selected proposals use science, technology, engineering and mathematics resources to develop engaging experiences, materials and information. Science centers, museums, planetariums, youth groups and other informal education organizations will use these products.

Each of the selected proposals will host NASA Explorer Institute Focus Groups, comprised of experts from the informal education community, to identify strategies and approaches that will help NASA respond to community needs.

"These focus groups will truly help us understand the needs of the informal education community. The knowledge we gain will allow us to foster new learning environments that spark the interest and imagination of people from all segments of society," said NASA's Chief Education Officer, Dr. Adena Loston.

The groups will convene in January and February 2005. The results of their meetings will be used to develop the next phase of the NASA Explorer Institutes Program. It is anticipated another solicitation for NASA Explorer Institutes will be released in the spring.

NASA received 54 proposals in response to a cooperative agreement notice for the informal education community. Through the solicitation, the selected proposals will receive funding of up to $50,000 per project. NASA Explorer Institutes is a new national program to encourage and support projects that will improve the public's understanding and appreciation of science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

The program will enhance scientific and technological literacy, mathematical competence, problem-solving skills and the desire to learn.


Herndon, VA

Exploring How To Use Electronic-Education and Multimedia To Inspire American-Indians on Reservations to Pursue Studies in Aerospace

ArtReach proposes to conduct a Focus Group designed to find ways to inspire American Indian youth on reservations to pursue opportunities in aerospace and related technologies. Focus Group platforms integrate cultural arts, kinesthetic and interactive role-play, and conflict resolution techniques. Strategic relationships with American Indian executive leaders, informal educators, and community-based organizations allow us to recruit key personnel to assess needs specific to reservation communities. Focus group participants will identify needs and strategies to increase access on reservations to relevant NASA assets (staff, research, technology, information, and facilities). Our goal is to reach parents and educators with limited resources through informal education using best-cost strategies. We will unite organizations with enormous reservoirs of experience and develop strategies to communicate the opportunities in aerospace to reservation communities. Our studio will deliver an E-Education website that communicates focus group insights and findings, while serving as an instructional model for like-minded efforts.

American Museum of Natural History

New York, NY

Seeing the Universe: Visualizing Space for Informal Science Education Audiences

The proposed focus group will bring together visualization providers, users, commercial vendors and NASA scientists and mission personnel in order to identify the next steps and coordinate our efforts. We will examine the lessons learned from previous efforts and identify the assets, capabilities, needs, and limitations of each community involved in bringing high quality visualizations to informal science education audiences. Special attention will be paid to developing tool kits that empower informal education institutions to tailor content to their particular audiences, technologies, and programs. Additional focus will be placed on the unique needs of and opportunities provided by domed/immersive theatres. The focus group will foster inter-community communication and coordination, leading to collaboration on future projects.

Auburn University

Auburn, AL

Extending NASA Education Resources Through 4-H

Representatives from several state 4-H Youth Development programs will engage in focus groups to identify strategies that can improve capacities of youth professionals, volunteers, and young people to equip and inspire the next generation of space explorers. This strategic planning process will help guide training, resource development, and collaboration between USDA and NASA. Implementation of the resulting plan will enable 4-H and NASA to increase public understanding of STEM disciplines and policy issues, expand youth organization partnerships, extend informal STEM education to underserved youth and their communities, and engage parents in their children's formal and informal education in STEM disciplines. 4-H is the youth development arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) operating through the Land Grant University System. 4-H is a youth development program that provides hands-on, experiential learning. With a network of more than 3,000 county and state staff working at the community level through clubs, schools and other community based organizations, more than 7 million young people are engaged in various learning experiences through 4-H each year.

Chabot Space & Science Center

Oakland, CA

NASA Explorer Institutes Pilot Focus Group on Digital Planetariums: Building Bridges between Informal Science Education Institutions, Universities and National Labs, Planetarium and Interactive Games Programmers and NASA Staff and Facilities

The proposed NEI Focus Group to be facilitated by Chabot Space & Science Center will bring digital planetarium storytellers, programmers, and institutions together with interactive computer games developers, NASA science and technology staff, and university representatives to create and publish a roadmap for the convergence of diverse communities and disciplines. There are few media experiences more powerful than the modern digital planetarium. The immersive nature of these hemispheric theaters facilitates the delivery of programming with affective educational goals such as inspiration, awe, and the stimulation of wonder in addition to the usual cognitive goals. There are currently over 60 planetaria, both large and small, utilizing digital projection technologies. This number is expected to grow rapidly with simple high-resolution fisheye display systems now flooding the market. These systems utilize powerful PC-based 3D graphics engines that are capable of accessing, navigating, and displaying complex scientific models and databases in real time. The most adept programmers of such systems are now to be found in the computer games industry, while the best simulations, databases, and scientific staff are found at NASA, our universities and national labs. The Chabot community believes that this focus group will produce exciting ideas for partnerships to produce informal science education products and activities that will inform and engage the public in space science exploration like never before.

Challenger Center for Space Science Education

Kansas City, MO

Challenger Learning Center Network NEI Focus Groups Exploring Common Resources and Needs With NASA Field and Education Offices

Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center Headquarters) proposes to facilitate a series of five topical focus group meetings with up to 52 Challenger Learning Centers and the formal and informal educational partners associated with each Learning Center. Each of the five focus group meetings will be facilitated using both synchronous and asynchronous distance learning tools and will last for one week. The focus group session will begin with a live presentation and Q/A using web-based collaborative technology and conclude after a facilitated week long web-based discussion. Active participation in these discussions will take place as participants respond to a series of compelling questions and reflect on the responses of others. After the 5 topical focus groups are completed active participants will travel to Kansas City for a 3 day meeting to debrief and draft a final report reflecting the group's recommendations.

The EdVenture Group

Morgantown, WV

The Integration of NASA NEI Programs and Resources into After School and Professional Development Programs Offered by Informal Science Education Institutions in the Eastern Region via a Focus Group Hosted by The EdVenture Group

The EdVenture Group, a non-profit organization focusing on the use of science and technology in education through professional development and consulting, proposes to host a focus group targeting individuals from the informal science community in a ten state region that offer after-school programs or professional development for teachers. The primary goal of this focus group is to facilitate and document discussion focused on how NASA can best provide engaging experiences, opportunities, materials, and information to members of the informal science community.

The Franklin Institute

Philadelphia, PA

Using Internet2 in Informal Science Education: Connecting K-6 Educators with NASA's Earth and Space Science Resources

The Franklin Institute will convene a focus group for informal science educators who are interested in determining innovative solutions to address how informal science institutions use the web and Internet2 to connect K-6 educators with NASA's earth and space science resources. Regional informal science educators will gather at The Franklin Institute for a two-day conference in February, 2005. Educators and experts across the country will be able to participate via Internet2. The focus group will place special emphasis on considering the use of Internet2 as a way to incorporate NASA's resources into science center programs for K-6 educators. Invited participants will represent the informal science education community, the practicing K-6 education community, and the Internet2 network's K-20 initiative. These three constituencies will bring the expertise needed to imagine innovative solutions to the challenge of connecting NASA resources with K-6 educators.

Great Lakes Planetarium Association

Minneapolis, MN

A Two Day Focus Group on How Best To Deliver NASA's Science & Technology Explorations To Small & Mid-Sized Planetariums

The Great Lakes Planetarium Association (GLPA) proposes a two-day focus group conference consisting of small and mid-sized planetarium educators and NASA staff. The meeting's objective will be to identify up to five strategies on how to best disseminate the NASA message and explorations by leveraging the planetariums' unique interface with their area communities. GLPA will invite participants from all seven regional planetarium associations across the nation, from several of the NASA regional centers representing all sciences and technologies, and from other relevant parties who can further the focus group objective.

Ou Sooner Flight Academy

Norman, OK

New Frontiers: Focusing on the Future of NASA Explorer Institutes: A regional collaborative effort among NASA, The University of Oklahoma's Sooner Flight Academy and the Informal Education Community

The goal of New Frontiers: Focusing on the Future of NASA project sponsored by the University of Oklahoma Sooner Flight Academy is to identify strategies and approaches that can be used to effectively implement the objectives of the NASA Explorer Institutes (NEI) Program to enhance the capabilities of the informal education community to inspire the next generation of explorers through access to NASA staff, research, technology, information, and/or facilities. The project will also address the need to better serve underrepresented and underserved communities in NEI activities. OU will assemble experts from the informal education community to participate in virtual and face-to-face NEI focus groups. A creative combination of strategies will include focus group activities, the Delphi technique, and the nominal group technique to elicit breadth and depth of ideas. State-of-the art technology will support the project with electronic communication and data collection. Information from the proposed focus groups will assist NASA's Education Enterprise to leverage partnerships with informal education partners and share NASA discoveries and experiences across a wide range of organizations. The participants will serve as change agents as they share with their colleagues new ideas about the contributions NASA can make to their organizations locally, regionally, and nationally.

Pacific Science Center

Seattle, WA

Bringing NASA into Focus: Improving Effective Use of NASA Resources Within the Informal Science Education Community

Participants of the focus group will be drawn from the 10 institutions that participated in the NOVA Origins Four-Part Television Series Educational Outreach program. The 10 museums represent a wide range of sizes, locations and diverse populations. Community members from Girl Scouts Totem Council and School's OU Washington have also been invited as well as our collaborators at AAAS. During the Origins project, these informal educators participated in a 3-day training program at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, MD and received educational materials covering a wide range of NASA earth & space science topics. By including the members of this unique set of informal educators, we will draw on the recent experiences that each of them has had with receiving and using both NASA and non-NASA education materials.

Space Science Institute

Boulder, CO

NASA Listens to the 4-Corners: Informal & Formal Educators from the Rural and Culturally Diverse Areas of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah Come Together to Guide NASA's Informal Education Efforts

The goal of this project is to assess the needs and challenges of informal educators in the 4-Corners region of the United States as they relate to NASA's informal education efforts. The 4-Corners region includes rural and underserved areas of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah and includes significant Native American and Latino communities. As such, it presents an excellent opportunity for NASA to investigate the special needs of smaller museums and the educators they work with in culturally diverse and rural communities. The results will not only apply to the 4-Corners region specifically, but will serve to inform efforts in other similar regions across the nation. Our proposal focuses on three groups who interact closely in their educational efforts: museums, formal educators, and leaders of informal community and after school groups.

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