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Program Heritage

Family Science NightWhile the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education was only recently established in June 2005, the Center’s programs and capabilities reflect a 10-year heritage of national education programming that effectively bridges across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content.

These national programs were developed and piloted by the Laboratory for Astrophysics at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum from 1990-1996.  The programs were transferred to the Space Science Education and Research department at Challenger Center for Space Science Education in 1996 where they were broadened into national initiatives. 

On June 1, 2005 the department’s staff and programs formally separated from Challenger Center to form USRA’s new National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.  The Center Director is Dr. Jeff Goldstein.

Center Programs

Journey through the Universe
A national science education initiative that engages entire communities—students, teachers, families, and the public—using education programs in the Earth and space sciences and space exploration to inspire and educate. School programs for thousands of students, professional development for educators, programs for families and the public, exhibitions, distance learning programs, and experiences delivered via the web, all provide multiple pathways for learning.

A community uses the content and programming resources available to create a customized Journey through the Universe program that reflects their strategic needs in STEM education; can be delivered systemically across an entire school district; and is designed to be sustainable. Programming is delivered by a National Team of engineers and scientists, and master science educators, from the Center and research and education organizations across the nation.

Voyage: A Journey through our Solar SystemVoyage
An international space science education initiative that uses a Voyage one to 10-billion scale model of the Solar System permanently installed in a community as a centerpiece for community-wide science education programming. The program was launched in October 2001 with the permanent installation of the Voyage scale model Solar System on the National Mall in Washington, DC, spanning a 2,000 ft (600 m) pathway between the National Air and Space Museum and the Smithsonian’s Castle Building.

Replicas of the exhibition are now available for permanent placement at community sites around the world. The vision is growing an international network of Voyage Communities. The exhibition includes a package of curriculum and educational resources that supports: visitors to the exhibition, grade K-12 teachers, grade K-12 students, informal educators in museums and science centers, families, and the public. Community-wide programming using the Voyage content on Solar System science and exploration is available through the Center’s Journey through the Universe program.

MESSENGER Education and Public OutreachMESSENGER
Education activities in support of NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft mission to the planet Mercury. The Center oversees: 1) the development of grade 5-8 and 9-13 Education Modules—each a theme-based compendium of inquiry-based lessons on Solar System science and exploration; 2) delivery of Solar System content through community initiatives, e.g., Journey through the Universe, and 3) the creation, training, and support of a cadre of master science educators—the MESSENGER Educator Fellows—which in turn train 3,000 teachers a year on the Education Modules, corresponding to 27,000 teachers trained over the mission lifetime (through 2012), and translating into experiences for over 1 million students.

Family Science Night at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space MuseumNational Air and Space Museum
School field trips designed for family learning for schools from 10 Washington, DC, metro-area school districts.  An after hours program in the most visited museum on the planet, it includes time in the galleries, a ‘performance’ by a space science researcher, and an IMAX film.  The researcher’s presentation is the centerpiece of the evening, providing students and their parents a personal window on the process of scientific inquiry.  Since 1993, 114 programs have been held for 38,900 attendees from 143 schools, corresponding to an attendance of 340 per program.

Solar System ResearchIRTF
The Center is committed to ensuring that all its science education and public outreach initiatives truly reflect the research experience, and are accurate in both scientific content and process.  To best serve this need the Center maintains an in-house space science research group.  Staff researchers split their time between research and national education and public outreach. The Center's research programs— 

  • Cooperative Research in Planetary Astronomy
    Research efforts in collaboration with the Laboratory for Extraterrestrial Physics at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.  Ground-based astronomy and laboratory spectroscopic studies are undertaken that support current, recent, and anticipated NASA planetary flight missions.  
  • Composition and Structure of Terrestrial Planetary Atmospheres
    Ultra-high resolution ground-based infrared spectroscopy of the terrestrial planet atmospheres.  Chemical and isotopic composition, thermal structure, and wind dynamics are studied in the upper atmospheres of Venus and Mars to understand the evolution of these atmospheres and planetary environs.  
  • Star Formation and the Origins of the Solar System
    Research exploring interstellar shock wave triggering of solar system formation.  Theoretical modeling and computer simulations of processes involved in the interaction between shock waves and interstellar clouds are investigated, with special emphasis on the mixing and transport of material from a shock wave into a forming solar system. 
©2008, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education