From NASA SOFIA: “SOFIA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors Program”

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SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy)

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) mission is responsible to NASA for conducting an Education and Public Outreach program that exploits the unique attributes of airborne astronomy to contribute to national goals for the reform of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and to the elevation of public scientific and technical literacy.

SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA) effort is a professional development program aspiring to improve teaching, inspire students, and inform the community. It builds upon the legacy of NASA’s highly successful FOSTER (Flight Opportunities for Science Teacher EnRicment) program that flew educators aboard the Kuiper Airborne Observatory (KAO) from 1990 – 1995.

SOFIA’s AAA program now enters its Cycle 2 phase: 12 AAA educator teams representing educators from 10 states were selected.

For the Cycle 1 phase of SOFIA’s AAA program, 13 AAA educator teams plus alternates were selected in a highly competitive application process. Selected educators came from a variety of backgrounds, and their institutions included a school for the deaf, an alternative education site (developmentally challenged), highly underserved student populations, rural schools, and a Native American school site.

The Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors “Pilot” program for educator professional development successfully flew six teachers on the observatory during the summer of 2011, representing California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and Virginia (Washington DC). Evaluation confirmed the program’s positive impact on the teacher participants, on their students, and in their communities. Teachers not only incorporated content knowledge and specific components of their experience into their curricula, they also have also given dozens of presentations and implemented teacher professional development workshops. Their efforts to date have impacted thousands of students and teachers.

As part of preparation and training for their flight experience, AAA program participants complete a graduate-level Astronomy for Teachers on-line course administered by Montana State University and National Teacher Enhancement Network. Teams are paired with an astronomer with observatory time, and they work with this astronomer throughout the research, from preparation to data analysis. AAAs optimally fly aboard the observatory twice, will implement classroom lessons based on their experiences, and will complete an outreach plan.

Selection into this prestigious program is truly an honor for the educators and their school, planetarium, or observatory.

See the full article here .

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SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The aircraft is based at and the program is managed from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s facility in Palmdale, California. NASA’s Ames Research Center, manages the SOFIA science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart.
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