“NASA’s journeys into air and space have deepened humankind’s understanding of the universe, advanced technology breakthroughs, enhanced air travel safety and security, and expanded the frontiers of scientific research,” the federal space program’s mission statement says. “These accomplishments share a common genesis: education. As the United States begins the second century of flight, the nation must maintain its commitment to excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to ensure that the next generation of Americans can accept the full measure of their roles and responsibilities in shaping the future.”
Because of its energetic and insightful approach to STEM education, NASA has been named one of the top Learning! 100 organizations in the nation.
NASA plans to continue its traditionof investing in the nation’s education programs and supporting the country’s educators “who play a key role in preparing, inspiring, exciting, encouraging, and nurturing the young minds of today who will be the workforce of tomorrow.”
Its three major education goals are:
Strengthening NASA and the nation’s future workforce
Attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines
Engaging Americans in NASA’s mission
NASA’s education program strives to “inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics” by supporting education in the nation’s schools and to “engage the public in shaping and sharing the experience of exploration and discovery” by supporting informal education and public outreach efforts. NASA’s commitment to education places special emphasis on these goals by increasing elementary and secondary education participation in NASA projects; enhancing higher education capability in STEM disciplines; increasing participation by under-represented and underserved communities; expanding electronic education; and expanding NASA’s participation with the informal education community.
NASA’s Office of Education supports education at all levels, with linkages to NASA research as a central part of its focus. The majority of NASA support to higher education is delivered through the NASA Mission Directorates, which coordinate projects for students, faculty and institutions that broaden the base of those who compete for NASA research awards. According to NASA, these initiatives help create and sustain the scientific and engineering workforce of the future.
NASA’s STEM education is directed primarily at educators and students from pre-K through college, along with a special “Kids’ Club” interactive website.
Education opportunities for educators include activities like a Ceres “Bright Spot” mystery poll, a “Geography from Space” trivia contest, and teacher professional development programs at the National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center in Pennsylvania.
For students, lectures with live online webcasts have become a prime mode of learning. A small sample: “Birth of Planets,” “The Juno Mission to Jupiter” and “Journey to the Center of Mars,” A series of “challenges” also acquaints youngsters and teens with science and technology.
In the future, “the Office of Education will continue to emphasize sharing the results of NASA missions and research programs with wider audiences by using science discoveries and research applications as vehicles to improve teaching and learning at all levels,” the respected organization concludes.
NASA is a three-time Learning! 100 winner