Mission Name:
Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) Education and Public Outreach (E/PO)

Project Description:
SDO educational initiatives are an extension and a complement to the overall Heliophysics and LWS E/PO efforts. With large amounts of data continuously streaming 
in, the SDO mission provides a unique opportunity to engage the public in scientific exploration and discovery.

Working with science centers, museums, community organizations, educators, and families, SDO develops initiatives to infuse a better understanding of the Sun’s interior and magnetic activity. Ultimately raising science
 literacy and a better understanding of the Sun’s role and influence on Earth and Space through a diverse set of programs improving the teaching and understanding of science, math and technology.

For the past few years, the SDO E/PO program has been developing and implementing a robust well rounded E/PO program as an extension and complement to the NASA 
Education portfolio and overall Heliophysics and Living With a Star (LWS) Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) efforts. Through strong partnerships with other missions and EPO programs both at Goddard and throughout the country, the SDO mission has taken advantage of established infrastructures and leveraged resources enabling the development of an effective, dynamic and extensive E/PO program with national impact.

Pre-launch efforts at the mission level were more focused on informal education and public outreach programs while at the instrument level, efforts are more evenly spread between formal and informal education, and public outreach. All efforts aimed to increase scientific literacy and build enthusiasm for the launch of SDO and its science results to come. This was to ensure that when data became available, the public is well versed on the
 concepts of the Sun as an active, unpredictable star that can have important effects on the Sun-Earth System.
 Initial post-launch efforts have focused on enhancing pre-launch programs with real-time data and mission results constantly streaming down from the observatory.

Special emphasis on formal education is given at the mission level ensuring that SDO data is infused into the classroom. The use of actual data has an even greater impact when exciting and educating the general public about the vital role our Sun plays.

Over the life of the mission, E/PO programs have reached a large audience of educators, students, families, and the public through a broad range of well-established and
 successful formal and informal programs. The development of quality programs based on current pedagogy, research on how people learn, and evaluation of all our programs with partnerships from other Heliophysics missions and NASA science divisions, ensures
 that the lasting effects of the SDO E/PO program will continue after the life of the mission and will be expanded upon future missions.

Our primary E/PO goal is to change audience perceptions and behaviors with a focus on STEM related areas.


  1. Communicate to the public the excitement and relevance of solar science, its influence on the solar system, and the discoveries of the mission.

  2. Improve science literacy and knowledge, especially among under-served and under-represented communities.
  3. Train a wide range of future and present professionals in appropriate science communication techniques.

  4. Increase awareness of the broad spectrum of careers in science, technology, engineering, math, and especially in solar science.

  5. Change the public’s perception of what science is and what scientists do.

The five formal education programs within the SDO EPO project are:

  • Think Scientifically: The Think Scientifically book series includes story-based science literature accompanied by hands-on labs and activities, and targets students in grades 3-4.
  • RISE Teacher Fellowship: The RISE Teacher Fellowship program provides year-long professional development and targeted resources for teachers in the Washington DC area.
  • A Day at Goddard Highschool Physics Field Trip: The Day at Goddard field trip gives high school students in grades 9 through 12 an opportunity to visit the Goddard facility and learn about career opportunities in NASA and STEM fields.
  • SDO Ambassador in the Classroom: The SDO Ambassadors will visit students in grades K through 12 in Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
  • Project Galileo: Project Galileo recruits teachers through email listservs and other online advertisements. Two workshops are offered each school year serving up to 60 teachers.

Lead Institution:
Goddard Space Flight Center


  • American Geophysical Union
  • American Astronomical Society
  • Heliophysics Forum
  • Stanford University
  • University of Colorado
  • Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
  • Montana State University
  • United States Peace Corps
  • The Franklin Institute
  • Maryland Science Center
  • 21st Century Learning Centers
  • Association of Astronomy Educators

Number of K-12 Teachers, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 451
Number of K-12 Students, Direct Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 14314
Number of K-12 Students, Indirect Interactions, FY12 (From OEPM): 1200

Effectiveness and Impact:

Exploration Station

  • Based on the evaluation the 2012 Exploration Station event was a grand success.
  • There was a 260% increase in attendance over 2011. The official number of attendees was 823, based on the two independent counters placed at the door. This represents a 516 person increase over last year’s official number of 307.
  • In addition to determining whether the attendees had a favorite exhibit, simply asking the attendees if they enjoyed the event as a whole adds to the understanding of the level of engagement. 93% of the attendees gave Exploration Station a “4” or a “5” score for overall enjoyment on a scale from “Did not enjoy” to “Really enjoyed” indicating that overall the attendees enjoyed the event as a whole.
  • The continued improvements this year besides attendance were the increase in the number and variety of exhibits and the number of groups with minors. There were 30 exhibits registered this year covering the majority of AGU science, a 18% increase in the number of exhibits from last year. The number of groups with minors increased to 53% this year from 47% last year with the average age of the minors being 7.6 years a decrease from last year when the average age of minors was 8.3 years.
  • The 89 groups represented on the Participant Information Cards averaged 2 minutes 41 seconds per exhibit in the 2012 Exploration Station exhibit hall, while groups with minors averaged 1 hour 30 minutes, or 3 minutes 13 second per exhibit.
  • Responses to the question, “Can you tell us something new that you learned today?” indicating that 93% of attendees could name something new that they had learned at Exploration Station. There were also 40 responses on the “Today I learned…” wall. The responses to both of these requests were combined for a total of 54 responses.
  • 80% of attendee answered the question “How likely are you to go home and look up more information on something you saw today” with a 4 or a 5 on a scale from “not likely” to “very likely” indicating of a high level of interest in at least one topic.

Day at Goddard Events

  • Day at Goddard attendance (2010-2012): 262
  • Teachers rated all aspects of the Day At Goddard trip very highly. Teachers responded to a question about what they found most valuable about the Day At Goddard visit. They rated the interactions with scientists and engineers highest followed by lab investigations and Science on a Sphere.
  • Teachers indicated their agreement with three statements regarding their perceptions of the impacts of the Day At Goddard event on their students. All teachers felt that the event increased their students’ understanding of the work of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center scientists and engineers. All teachers agreed that the event was effective in increasing students’ awareness of STEM careers and most (80.0%) agreed it was effective in generating student interest in space science.
  • Findings from the teacher survey indicate a highly positive response to the Day At Goddard events. All teachers agreed or strongly agreed with the statement on the survey, “I learned new things as a result of today’s visit,” indicating that they also benefitted from participating in the event with their students.
  • Students responded to two questions on the feedback survey about the impact of the event on their interest in space science and science careers. Of the 47 students who responded to the question, 28 (59.6%) indicated that they were more interested in science careers as a result of participating in Day At Goddard. 23 (48.9%) indicated that they were more interested in space science as a result of the Day At Goddard.
  • Students rated all aspects of the trip highly with the highest rating for the hands-on laboratory activities followed by viewing Science on a Sphere. Students rated meeting and talking with scientists/engineers and tour of the I & T facilities lower but still rated them positively as indicated by mean ratings above 5.0. These findings indicate that students are engaged and interested in the activities and that interactions with scientists and engineers were motivating to them.
  • Students indicated their level of agreement with three questions about their interactions with scientists, and their perceptions of their learning on a five-point scale. The results presented in indicate that the majority of students (89.4%) agreed or strongly agreed that they felt comfortable talking with NASA scientists, corroborating findings from the question rating their experiences with interacting with NASA personnel. The majority of students (89.3%) also indicated that they learned a lot about NASA from attending the day’s events. Of the respondents, 44.7% agreed or strongly agreed that a career at NASA is possible for them.
  • Results from the Day At Goddard surveys indicate that the events are effective at engaging student interest in space science and provided good exposure to the work of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Hands-on activities, Science on a Sphere and interactions with scientists and engineers are particularly engaging for students. Teachers particularly value the active learning experiences and the career opportunities presented in the field trip.

SDO Ambassador in the Classroom Visits

  • Student Attendance 2010-2012 – 1,311
  • Results from the feedback survey indicated that the presentations fit well with participating teachers’ curricula and helped to support science instruction. Teachers commented that the presentations fit well with standards related to conducting scientific investigations, sound, light and energy and space science at their respective grade levels. Teachers also commented that the presentations were a good way to introduce units on solar science, earth sciences and sound.
  • Teachers responded to two questions related to the quality of the presentation. Teachers rated the effectiveness of the speaker in communicating with students to ensure understanding of the topic and engaging student interest on a 10-point scale with 1 representing extremely ineffective and 10 representing extremely effective. Responses on effectiveness of presentation in engaging student interest in topic averaged 9.77. Effectiveness of guest speaker in communicating to ensure understanding responses averaged 9.72. Both results indicate that teachers found these components very highly effective.
  • Teachers responded to an open-ended question about what they found most useful or relevant about the SDO Ambassador in the Classroom presentation. Teachers especially appreciated activities that promoted active learning such as the “kinesthetic activities about Venus Transit,” solar viewing glasses, games, “the hands-in activity with the buzzing ball” and “explaining through experimenting about the pitch of sound waves.”
  • Teachers responded to a question about how they would follow up with their students on the SDO Ambassador in the Classroom presentation. Teachers indicated that they would have students do research projects and presentations related to the topics, visit the SDO website, review the concepts and refer back to examples from the presentations, and have class discussions about what they learned.
  • Students responded to three items about what they learned on a five-point scale, with 1 representing really disagree and 5 representing really agree. Of the responses to the question “I learned why it is important to study the Sun and how it affects the Earth,” nearly all (98.2%) agreed or strongly agreed that they learned why it is important to understand the sun and how it affects the Earth. For the question “I learned new things about solar science today,” 98% agreed that they learned new things about solar science, and 92.3% indicated that they learned about the Solar Dynamics Observatory from the visit.
  • Students responded to two questions about their engagement and interest in the presentations. 98.8% agreed or strongly agreed that they had fun while learning from the SDO Ambassador in the Classroom presentation and 93.3% indicated that the presentation made solar science interesting to them.
  • Students responded to a question about what they most liked about the SDO Ambassador in the Classroom visit. The majority of students cited examples of active or hands-on learning as the best part of the visit. Third-grade students who participated in a presentation on sound liked an activity where they threw a “buzzing ball” to one another. Students attending presentations on the Venus transit liked seeing videos and images of the Sun and Venus. Students also commented on videos of sun storms. Many students commented that the best part of the day was “learning about the Sun.”
  • Most grasped the key content of the presentation. Students attending presentations on sound commented on learning about sound waves and the Doppler effect, and “how pitch changes when it moves,” among other things. Students attending presentations on the Venus transit and the Sun learned that the Sun is made of gas, Venus rotates around the Sun, Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system and that the Sun has storms. Other things students indicated they learned included, “the Sun makes noise,” the Sun is very hot, and the Sun is white.

Audience quotes:
“This is one of the most valuable field experiences for our students.”
“I want to work here for an internship.”
“The students finally understood that the Earth rotates and orbits.”

Regarding the "SDO Data in the Classroom" Lab:
A professor at a community college on the west coast is involved in an SDO partnership to develop a "Data in the Classroom" lab exercise using SDO data. The students at the community college are first year non-science majors coming from a diverse urban environment:

“Where to start! I loved this whole lab. We learned about the SDO and that we can see images of the sun in different spectrums which I had no idea was this easily accessible and contains so much information for researchers and scientists working on the mysteries of the sun. I think that this knowledge itself is most significant.”

“Observation and analysis of what we were observing was key in this lab. We watched a few
videos and in each one, whether someone was telling us what was going on or we analyzed
it ourselves, we got to see glimpses of the sun’s activity. From prominences and magnetic field loops to huge flares, we got to see things I did not realize was possible to see. We were able to hypothesize many things, from what wavelengths were being used in certain images to where we thought sunspots would most likely be and what they would do over time. We also got to test some of these hypothesis by analyzing others' research but I would have like to be able to do more experimenting with some of the hypothesis we developed....As a vocalist, helioseismology interests me highly. Thank you for showing me this wonderful tool and I can’t wait to see what else can be done with it.”

“I should like to learn more about helioseismology. I am a music major in vocal performance so I understand sound waves very well, but would like to learn more about what is involved in the process. I would like to know what can be measured inside the sun by sound waves as well as what can be seen and deduced from those measurements. I would also like to see what is used to make the sound waves and what I could offer, if anything, from having a knowledge of vocal sound waves and frequencies.”