Collaboration as a Strategy to Transform the Impact of EPO Efforts in the New York Center for Astrobiology

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Karyn L Rogers1, Amy Svirsky2, Monica Meissner2, Glenn Busby1 and Wayne Roberge1, (1)Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY, United States, (2)Association for the Cooperative Advancement of Science and Education, Saratoga Springs, NY, United States
The New York Center for Astrobiology (NYCA) EPO effort is a collaboration combining expertise in evaluation and assessment of STEM educational modules with disciplinary expertise in astrobiology. In practice, the NYCA partners with external experts in professional development, informal education and evaluation to assist in developing and implementing certain programs of the NYCA EPO activities. Two specific program initiatives of the NYCA EPO effort offer excellent examples of programs with strong science content knowledge as well as using effective tools to address the NSF impact categories. These are the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp (EMBHSSC, in conjunction with RPI’s STEM Pipeline Initiative) and the Astrobiology Teachers Academy (ATA).

The EMBHSSC for middle school students focuses on NASA astrobiology initiatives around the “Quest for Life” theme. The Camp has a comprehensive evaluation component and uses pre-and post- assessment of student knowledge and interest in STEM. Recent data suggest that every student has shown a measurable gain in these areas.

The ATA is a weeklong summer intensive professional development program for P-12 STEM teachers that combines discipline scientists in the NYCA with an external evaluation organization, the Association for the Cooperative Advancement of Science and Education (ACASE). The goal is for teachers to develop a new learning module for a course they teach that uses astrobiology as a content focus to engage students. The Academy has scientists collaborating with teachers in this effort, providing content and assistance in designing instructional activities. Assessments are woven into the fabric of the work in a few ways: 1. There is a purposeful focus on assessment as part of the learning module, and the content of the ATA; 2. ACASE offers teachers a tool for tracking their students’ attainment of the learning goals identified in their learning module; 3. There are daily evaluations of the teachers’ experiences to enable mid-course corrections, and a final evaluation of the ATA at the end of the experience. NYCA scientists support the approach of working collaboratively with external experts in evaluation as a paradigm for EPO activities sponsored by NASA. Our presentation will highlight the myriad of tools used to measure outcomes of these activities.