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2010 Annual Science Report

University of Wisconsin Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: Project 6A: Astrobiology Formal and Informal Education Through NASA/JPL Volunteer Programs

Project Progress

SOLAR SYSTEM EDUCATOR (SSEP) ASTROBIOLOGY INSTITUTE – The Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium education and public outreach teams, along with JPL investigation teams Titan as a Prebiotic System and Icy Worlds, and NAI Central collaborated to host an in-person institute for new Solar System Educators on July 12-13 at NASA/Ames. There were 21 Solar System Educators from 18 states and Puerto Rico in attendance.

Figure 1

Solar System Educators are master teachers who train with us on the use of NASA’s educational products and share that information with teachers in their states by hosting local professional development workshops. There is at least one Solar System Educator in each state and Puerto Rico. We are still missing one from the District of Columbia. Each new Solar System Educator attends one in-person institute during the beginning of their two-year, renewable period of service. SSEP’s are asked in particular to reach out to teachers in rural and underserved schools.

Figure 2

The institute was designed to acquaint Solar System Educators with NASA’s Astrobiology investigations and in the use of Astrobiology-related educational materials. Presenters included: Dr. David Grinspoon, Dr. Kevin Hand, Dr. Max Coleman, Dr. Clark Johnson, Dr. Margaret Race, Brooke Norsted, Edna DeVore, Pamela Harman, Rachel Zimmerman-Brachman, SSEP Shirley Greene and Kay Ferrari. On-site coordination was provided by Daniella Scalice, Sandra Dueck and the NAI support team.

Figure 3

Institute information and materials are archived on the NASA Nationwide (NNW) training website for Solar System Educators and volunteers in NNW member organizations. A telecon training to review the material is scheduled to be held in early November with SSEP Shirley Greene as guest speaker.

Figure 4

NASA NATIONWIDE TRAINING – On December 3, 2009, Dr. Pat Beauchamp from the Titan as a Prebiotic System team addressed NASA volunteers on the subject of “Missions to Titan, the Enigmatic Moon of Saturn.” There were 30 participants in the live telecon and 88 more volunteers have reviewed the training archive which will remain part of the training record on the NASA Nationwide website.

SOLAR SYSTEM AMBASSADORS EVENTS – From September 1, 2009 through August 31, 2010, Solar System Ambassadors held 235 Astrobiology events reaching a total of 93,296 people. Of the 93,296 people, 61,987 were direct participants, 30,098 were reached through broadcast media, 50 through distance learning and the remaining 1,161 through other means. Solar System Ambassadors conduct public events for people in their local communities.

SOLAR SYSTEM EDUCATOR WORKSHOPS – From July 1, 2010 through August 31, 2010, Solar System Educators hosted 8 Astrobiology educator workshops reaching a total of 216 teachers in the following states: Idaho, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee.

ABSCICON – Three Solar System Educators and one Solar System Ambassador presented papers during the Education session at AbSciCon in Houston, Texas. They were Laura Venner from New Jersey who presented “Engineering Design Challenge: The Search for Life,” Honora Dash and Barry Fried from Brooklyn, New York who presented “Astrobiology in an Urban New York City High School: John Dewey High School’s Space Science Academy,” and Leigh Arino de la Rubia who presented “Using Edible Models to Communicate Principles of Comet Science: Assembling Amino Acids from Simpler Molecules.”

WORKSHOP FOR TEXAS TEACHERS ON MAY 1 – Directly following AbSciCon, Brooke Norsted and Kay Ferrari supported the NAI-sponsored workshop for local area teachers. Brooke led the group in a radiometric dating activity, and Kay handled evaluation for the workshop.

ASTROBIOLOGY TALKS – Dr. Max Coleman gave talks on Astrobiology to the following community and educational groups: UC Riverside (Jan 2010); Conejo Valley Rotary Club (Feb 2010); Glendale Rotary Club (May 2010); La Canada Library (Sep 2010); and University of Southern California (Sep 2010).

NASA SPACE GRANT-FUNDED GRADUATE STUDENT – Dr. Max Coleman employed a graduate student named Kyle McElhoney, who was funded by the NASA Space Grant program, as a summer intern. He is working on a rover-based mobile robotic chemistry lab for astrobiology-relevant analyses.