Toolkits in Heliophysics And Training for Informal Education Networks (THATIEN)

Project Name:
THATIEN (Toolkits in Heliophysics And Training for Informal Education Networks

Project Description:
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), in a three-year partnership with UC Berkeley’s Center for Science Education at the Space Sciences Laboratory has created a set of outreach resources (Our Magnetic Sun Outreach ToolKit) and professional development opportunities, with the purpose of bringing the excitement of solar astronomy and NASA heliophysics science to informal education and public outreach audiences.


The ASP’s education and public outreach (E/PO) goals and objectives are complementary to NASA’s, and over the last four years, the two organizations have worked cooperatively to create and maintain the highly successful NASA Night Sky
Network (NSN), which provides materials and training videos to amateur astronomers engaged in public outreach. The NSN, a nationwide coalition of over 300 astronomy clubs bringing the science and inspiration of NASA's missions to the public. Since March 2004, the ASP has produced eight NSN outreach toolkits giving amateur astronomers the tools to share NASA space science and make connections to the night sky. There is an opportunity and a need to do the same with NASA
 Heliophysics, making connections to both daytime astronomy (e.g. sunspots) and the night sky (e.g. aurora). NSN volunteers have logged over 24,400 events, reaching more than 2,551,000 visitors. Events range from small observing opportunities in a public park to large-scale events at malls and universities to celebrate Astronomy Day. Nearly one quarter of these events are outreach events at schools.


There are two main efforts for this program:


  1. development of two heliophysics outreach toolkits customized to two different networks of informal educators and outreach volunteers, and
  2. development of appropriate trainings for each network.

The deliverables for these efforts include the following:


  • Outreach toolkit for AFGU/Sky Rangers educators
  • Online workshop for AFGU/Sky Rangers educators featuring background science and introducing activities of the toolkit

  • Onsite workshops at professional conferences attended by AFGU/Sky Ranger educators (e.g. NAI, NAAEE and ASTC; described more later)
  • Outreach toolkit for NSN amateur astronomers

  • Training DVD for NSN toolkit -- DVD will also be edited and posted on the NSN 
Resource Lookup page (https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/download-search.cfm) to make the demonstrations and activity write-ups more widely available

  • Dissemination of both toolkits, with logging of AFGU and NSN participants receiving the materials and training


Lead Institution:
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific


Partnerships:
University of California at Berkeley Center for Science Eduaton at the Space Sciences Laboratory


Effectiveness and Impact:
Evaluation findings and impact statements:
Summative Evaluation


Ultimate success of the introduction of the heliophysics toolkits and workshops to the AFGU community will be determined by two metrics: the number of participants who successfully complete each workshop (over 150 have been trained to date) and their ability to incorporate the training and materials at their home facilities with their own visitors. Through the logging of events, for which a mechanism is already embedded in the AFGU system, we will be able to track and report the materials used. The same is true for the NSN toolkit and training
DVD. Dissemination and use of the toolkit will be evaluated through to the end of year 3 through event logs, which are also already embedded in the NSN system. To date 189 toolkits have been shipped to NSN clubs and over 800 events have been logged using the materials.

In a recent survey of educators in the Sky Rangers program who also received the Our Magnetic Sun toolkit and training, the following responses were received from participants of past workshops:

Summative Evaluation

Ultimate success of the introduction of the heliophysics toolkits and workshops to the AFGU community will be determined by two metrics: the number of participants who successfully complete each workshop (over 150 have been trained to date) and their ability to incorporate the training and materials at their home facilities with their own visitors. Through the logging of events, for which a mechanism is already embedded in the AFGU system, we will be able to track and report the materials used. The same is true for the NSN toolkit and training
DVD. Dissemination and use of the toolkit will be evaluated through to the end of year 3 through event logs, which are also already embedded in the NSN system. To date 189 toolkits have been shipped to NSN clubs and over 800 events have been logged using the materials.

In a recent survey of educators in the Sky Rangers program who also received the Our Magnetic Sun toolkit and training, the following responses were received from participants of past workshops:

The degree to which participation in Sky Rangers influenced participants:
Participants were asked to rate how their participation in Sky Rangers influenced them in certain areas of their work, rating from 0 (no increase) to 6 (strong increase). Average ratings ranged from 3.48 to 4.89. The lowest ratings were for the two categories involving the operation of observing equipment, a topic only covered in the in-person workshops and not in the online workshops. When the responses for these two categories are filtered to only include the responses from participants of in-person workshops, those ratings jump from 3.48 and 3.49, respectively, to 4.53 and 4.53, respectively, which puts the range of average ratings at 4.07 to 4.89. The percent of ratings of 5 or 6 for each category ranged from 32% to 71%. Again, when the two categories involving observing equipment are filtered by responses from participants of in-person workshops, their percentage of ratings of 5 or 6 jump from 32% and 34%, respectively, to 62% and 59%, which puts the range of percentage of ratings of 5 or 6 at 43% to 71%.

Participants were asked how often they hosted astronomy events before and after their participation in Sky Rangers. Before participation in Sky Rangers, 33% of participants never hosted astronomy events, and only 22% reported hosting more than five astronomy events per year. After participation in Sky Rangers, only 2% of participants never hosted astronomy events, and 62% of participants hosted at least five events per year, with 19% hosting fifteen or more events per year.

Participants were asked to comment on how their participation in Sky Rangers has influenced their astronomy programs. The most common responses included a personal increase in knowledge and confidence, and an increase in the frequency and quality of astronomy programming.

We are currently conducting a survey of all participants of past Sky Rangers workshops, as well as their “apprentices”, i.e. the colleagues that they trained on the Sky Rangers materials and techniques after participating in a workshop. The survey was sent to 246 participants with a completion deadline on June 2, 2013. As of May 28, the survey had 100 responses. This report partially summarizes those responses.

The NASA Night Sky Network has logged 878 events serving 193,408 people with the Our Magnetic Sun toolkit. This includes 244 events held to observe the Transit of Venus on June 5, 2012.

Materials from the toolkit have also been downloaded from the NSN resource area over 1550 since their release in 2012.

Audience quotes:

"My knowledge base, my ability to answer questions and to go into further detail based on interest, has increased a lot, which enhances my programs. The toolkit comes with activities that have been very popular with visitors and coworkers. I have been able to train others to help lead astronomy programs."

"Can't even begin to say how important and helpful the training and participation has been!!!!! Before the training I knew very little, but now I can refer to myself as an astronomer!! Because of Sky Rangers and AFGU and ASP and all the training I added astronomy programs to our slate of education programs for schools. Before all I was doing was 2-3 evening stargazing programs. I am so thankful for the opportunities and connections!!!!!

"

"It has given me confidence to talk about, give programs of and discuss the night sky like I've never experienced before.
"