Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:20 AM
PLANETARY SCIENCE EDUCATION IN THE CLASSROOM: HISTORY AND PRESENT CHALLENGES
In 1958, NASA was charged with providing “the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and the results”. Clear evidence of NASA’s dedication to this charge was evident during the first mission to explore another planetary body, when Apollo 7 beamed live broadcasts to millions during 163 Earth orbits in preparation for the Apollo 10-17 activities,. Since then, planetary science education materials, ranging from simple graphics to full curriculum sets, for informal settings and pre-K through college classrooms were developed by NASA mission teams, NASA Centers, and researchers and educators funded through NASA science and education and public outreach grants. However, the creation of these materials was not always guided by knowledge of best practices or an intimate knowledge of the target audience. A review of NASA’s K-12 education programs in 2008 found that “rapidly shifting priorities, fluctuations in budget, and changes in management structure have undermined the stability of programs and made evaluation of effectiveness challenging, if not impossible.” In addition, many projects “do not have clear, realistic, and appropriately defined project-level goals and objectives that reflect the resources available and the target audiences for them”. Teachers today face a myriad of challenges incorporating these materials into their classrooms. First, these curricular materials were developed and housed in various centers, universities, and research facilities across the country, and in various formats from digital to binders in boxes, that educators today find it frustrating and daunting to find even with the advent of digital libraries. Second, in the age of standards-driven education, it is not clear if these materials are appropriate and can be worked into highly-prescribed curricula. Third, many of the materials do not include any teacher professional development for their use, and may not be useful for those teachers without the proper conceptual background. Encouragingly, several groups are now concentrating on teacher professional development and teacher-led curriculum development that allow teachers to create materials that best fit the constraints of their individual classrooms, and use NASA materials and expertise as resources.