Successfully Engaging Scientists in NASA Education and Public Outreach: Examples from a Teacher Professional Development Workshop Series and a Planetary Analog Festival
Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:30 AM
The Lunar Workshops for Educators are a series of weeklong workshops for grade 6–9 science teachers focused on lunar science and exploration, sponsored by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). These workshops have been held across the country for the past five years, in places underserved with respect to NASA workshops and at LRO team member institutions. MarsFest is a planetary analog festival that has been held annually in Death Valley National Park since 2012, made possible with support from the Curiosity (primarily the Sample Analysis at Mars) Education and Public Outreach team, NASA’s Ames Research Center, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the SETI Institute, and Death Valley National Park. Both the Lunar Workshops for Educators and MarsFest rely strongly on scientist engagement for their success. In the Lunar Workshops, scientists and engineers give talks for workshop participants, support facility tours and field trips, and, where possible, have lunch with the teachers to interact with them in a less formal setting. Teachers have enthusiastically appreciated and benefited from all of these interactions, and the scientists and engineers also provide positive feedback about their involvement. In MarsFest, scientists and engineers give public presentations and take park visitors on field trips to planetary analog sites. The trips are led by scientists who do research at the field trip sites whenever possible. Surveys of festival participants indicate an appreciation for learning about scientific research being conducted in the park from the people involved in that research, and scientists and engineers report enjoying sharing their work with the public through this program. The key to effective scientist engagement in all of the workshops and festivals has been a close relationship and open communication between the scientists and engineers and the activity facilitators. I will provide more details about both of these programs, how scientists and engineers are involved in them, and offer suggestions for others who would like to engage scientists and engineers in similar activities.