HEASARC Education and Public Outreach Program

Mission Name:
HEASARC Education and Public Outreach Program


Project Description:
Using data in the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) archive, scientists throughout the world study black holes, stars, supernovae, and the big bang. Through its Education and Public Outreach program, the HEASARC brings these objects to teachers and students using our Imagine the Universe! and StarChild websites, print materials, and educator workshops. 

The Imagine the Universe! website (http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov) has been developed over the past 15 years to provide content for the general public about high energy astrophysics topics. The Imagine! site also features an “Ask an Astronomer” service run by local volunteer scientists. In addition, the HEASARC E/PO team develops curriculum support materials use fundamental science topics to bring astronomy into the grade 7-14 classroom. The materials are tied to the National Science Education Standards to ensure that classroom teachers can use the materials to supplement their curriculum. These materials are distributed to teachers, homeschool providers, and providers of teacher professional development across the country through the Imagine! website. To provide these resources for underserved and internet-independent audiences, we annually publish a DVD-ROM, capturing Imagine! and StarChild http://starchild.gsfc.nasa.gov/) and the latest year’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. 

Our development cycle, as exemplified by our most recent material Cosmic Times, includes determining teachers’ needs, infusing scientific rigor, involving teachers in developing classroom materials, and utilizing formative evaluation tools developed with our long-standing evaluator, Cornerstone Evaluation Associates.


Lead Institution:
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Partnerships:
The HEASARC Education and Public Outreach program partners extensively with teachers from school districts in the Goddard area to help in creating our curriculum materials. Our most recent partnership was with a group of teachers from the Perkiomen Valley School District in Pennsylvania, who created the lesson plans associated with the Cosmic Times materials.

We partner with Laura Whitlock of Louisiana Sate University, Shreveport. She created the StarChild website and continues to update the site. We provide web-hosting services.

We also partnered with Sonoma State University’s Educator Ambassador program for the training of our Suzaku Educator Ambassador. The EA program was a group of experienced and enthusiastic teachers chosen through a competitive selection process and trained to give workshops on high-energy astronomy at local and regional venues. We participated in bi-annual trainings of these teachers and directly sponsored one teacher.


Metrics:
Number of K-12 Teachers, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 180
Number of K-12 Students, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 0
Number of K-12 Teachers, Indirect Interactions, FY12: 70
Number of K-12 Students, Indirect Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 2100

Additional metrics:
The HEASARC Education and Public Outreach program disseminates materials through its Imagine the Universe website. In FY12, we fulfilled over 450 individual requests for materials, and sent materials to: 208 K-12 teachers, 25 college educators, 214 informal educators, and 11 workshop providers.

General public (indirectly): 375,000 visits/month for the Imagine the Universe website; 250,000 visits/month for the StarChild website


Effectiveness and Impact:
Evaluation findings and impact statements:
In addition to the indirect general public interactions, we have a panel of volunteer scientists who answer questions through an “Ask an Astronomer” program on the Imagine the Universe website. In 2012, this panel fielded over 1400 questions from members of the general public.