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2009 Annual Science Report

University of Wisconsin Reporting  |  JUL 2008 – AUG 2009

EPO Activity: Astrobiology Formal and Informal Education Through NASA/JPL Volunteer Programs

Project Progress

ASTROBIOLOGY 101 TRAINING – A basic Astrobiology professional development telecon training was held for Solar System Ambassadors (SSA), Solar System Educators (SSEP) and NASA Museum Alliance members on November 26, 2008 (the day before Thanksgiving). The intent of this training was to introduce participants in NASA/JPL volunteer outreach programs to the discipline of Astrobiology. Presenters included WARC member Dr. Max Coleman of JPL, Dr. Margaret Race of the SETI Institute and Jon Rask of NASA/Ames. In addition to being amongst the contributors to “The Astrobiology Primer,” Margaret and Jon are Solar System Ambassadors as well. There were 35 participants in the live telecon. A week later, the telecon recording, edited transcript, presentation and resource materials were posted in the Solar System Ambassadors archive of past trainings. This archive is available to volunteers in the invited programs who were not able to attend the live telecon.

NASA NATIONWIDE – In 2009, a group of NASA volunteer programs formed a consortium, called “NASA Nationwide,” with the goal of leveraging communications, sharing resources and provide greater efficience in professional development. This consortium is under the direction of Kay Ferrari, SSA/SSEP coordinator and the Special Projects Office at JPL. In July 2009, the NASA Nationwide website ( ) debuted. The website contains 10 years of SSA/SSEP and Museum Alliance-sponsored training archives, including Astrobiology 101. The consortium boasts more than 25,000 volunteer members who now have access to these archives. The number of archive reviews through July 31, 2009 is TBD.

SOLAR SYSTEM AMBASSADORS EVENTS – From December 2008 through July 31, 2009, Solar System Ambassadors held 11 Astrobiology events with 1092 participants. Solar System Ambassadors conduct public events for people in their local communities. When more thematically focused Astrobiology trainings are held for these volunteers, the number of events they host will increase. Astrobiology is still a very new topic for them.

SOLAR SYSTEM EDUCATORS ASTROBIOLOGY COLLABORATIONWARC E/PO along with JPL investigations, Titan Prebiotic and Icy Worlds, have begun collaborating to host an in-person institute for new Solar System Educators to be held at NASA/Ames in the summer of 2010. Solar System Educators are master teachers who train on the use of NASA’s educational products, sharing that information with other teachers in their states by hosting local professional development workshops. NASA/JPL is in the process of selecting more master teachers to become Solar System Educators. The goal for this application period is to have at least one Solar System Educator in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It is estimated that 50 new volunteers will be added to that program. Each new Solar System Educator attends one in-person institute during the beginning of their two-year, renewable period of service. About 15-20 of the new SSEPs will attend the Astrobiology institute. After the institute, the remainder of Solar System Educators will be trained on those Astrobiology educational products via telecon trainings or archive reviews.