Introduction to SMD Education & Public Outreach
NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has a rich history of bringing NASA's science discoveries - from explorations of our home planet Earth to studies of distant stars and galaxies - to the public. The SMD E/PO community engages and educates youths and adults nationwide in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics topics related to SMD content, expertise, and facilities.
SMD's vision for Education and Public Outreach is:
"To share the story, the science, and the adventure of NASA's scientific explorations of our home planet, the solar system, and the universe beyond, through stimulating and informative activities and experiences created by experts, delivered effectively and efficiently to learners of many backgrounds via proven conduits, thus providing a direct return on the public's investment in NASA's scientific research."
Through its education and public outreach efforts, SMD has a vibrant and growing portfolio of products and activities that are part of NASA's larger education and outreach efforts.In FY12, the SMD E/PO Community worked with over 34,000 K-12 educators and over 680,000 K-12 students. In keeping with current research on ways to increase impacts of educational efforts, the majority of these were long-term interactions for two days or more.
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s (SMD) Strategic Approach to Education
Summarized by the Forum Leads
“The Science Mission Directorate programs are to be commended for their close integration with the science missions of NASA and for their use of partnerships to bring educational expertise into their work.” (National Resource Council, 2008)
Over three decades, SMD has moved toward a strategic model of integrating education and science that strategically prepares high-quality STEM teachers, engages students of all ages in STEM, and broadens participation in STEM of underrepresented groups.
NASA’s SMD STEM education programs and infrastructure are a major asset to the Nation and the future of STEM envisioned by the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (Co-STEM) and the Administration.
- Science and science education go hand-in-hand in SMD. SMD embeds STEM education within its missions and research to ensure that current, accurate science is carried into schools and public programming. This approach also enables important opportunities for students and educators to participate in the practice of science called for by the National Research Council (2012) and embodied in the Next Generation Science Standards (2013). This practice reflects a significant return on investment for taxpayers; a minimum of 1% of each mission’s budget is dedicated to STEM E/PO to share the science, the story, and the adventure that is NASA science with the public.
- Scientists and science educators work together to create impactful SMD STEM education. SMD STEM education involves coordinated collaborations between scientists, engineers, and over 700 STEM education professionals who are part of NASA’s missions and research programs, whether at NASA Centers, academic institutions, or science education organizations. This coupling of science and education expertise is fundamental to sound STEM education and is a hallmark of the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s E/PO program.
- Rigorous reviews, evaluation, and data-driven decisions are fundamentally integrated in SMD STEM education. SMD STEM activities are rigorously reviewed and evaluated at numerous critical junctures. Like science proposals, all SMD E/PO projects – whether they are for missions, grants, or cooperative agreements - are peer-reviewed. Every effort must have an implementation and evaluation plan. For the duration of the project, and prior to renewal, projects must demonstrate effectiveness. All projects are evaluated throughout their life cycle, with medium and large projects requiring an external evaluator.
- SMD’s STEM education is built on audience needs and recognizes the importance of leveraging sound education research. SMD’s educational efforts reflect not only cutting-edge STEM, but they also put into practice breakthrough research on STEM teaching and learning conducted by the National Science Foundation and other organizations. SMD education professionals work together through Education Forums to align products with national education standards, to identify audience needs, and to apply educational research findings to their programs and products and share best practices with their audiences.
- SMD’s STEM education portfolio recognizes that one size does not fit all. SMD education programming is designed to meet the needs of diverse audiences. K-12 educators, undergraduate students, special needs children, rural librarians, afterschool educators, inner city teenagers, home schoolers, inquisitive adults, and a wide range of groups traditionally underrepresented/underserved in STEM are all invited to explore and participate in SMD’s STEM. SMD’s programs are deliberately designed to authentically collaborate with these audiences to understand and successfully meet their varied needs.
- SMD’s collaborative STEM education approach broadens and deepens the STEM experience. Individual SMD education projects collaborate with each other through Forums to collectively tell the story of Earth and space. This enables projects to place into context the current questions scientists are asking about our universe, solar system, Earth, and central star. Through these collaborative efforts, SMD’s education activities weave into each other, creating greater continuity and sustainability, and allowing audiences to explore a unified story and not just a single chapter.
- Every step of the way, SMD E/PO programs are designed to minimize duplication and fragmentation and to maximize collaboration and return on investment. SMD E/PO activities are selected and evaluated based on their ability to leverage and extend partnerships and existing programs and resources. SMD E/PO Forums have been established to coordinate and support educational activities of the community of more than 700 educational professionals, increasing communication, collaboration, and continuity across programs, providing access to expertise, and multiplying programmatic impact by making efforts accessible to broader audiences.