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Museum of Science to Create New STEM Curricula for NASA Project

April 18, 2016

Marooned on Mars, NASA scientist Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) jury-rigs devices to make oxygen and water, repair his shelter, and communicate with Earth. Who knew that engineering design skills could make for a thrilling Hollywood film?

Curriculum developers at the Museum of Science, Boston did. To spark interest in NASA and space science, they are collaborating on a project to create space-themed STEM resources for afterschool programs. Supported by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and led by Northern Arizona University's Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL), the $3.4 million project is called PLANETS (Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering, Technology, and Science).

A $1.3 million sub-award to the Museum's Engineering is Elementary® (EiE®) project will support development of three out-of-school time curriculum units that integrate planetary science with technology and engineering. The Museum will also conduct research to understand better how out-of-school engineering instruction works.

"The Museum is delighted to be part of this initiative," says Museum president and director Ioannis Miaoulis. "It embodies the mission of our National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®) to introduce engineering and technological literacy in schools and lifelong learning centers nationwide." The EiE project, which develops both in-school and afterschool curricula, is based at NCTL.

"We're excited to be part of this project and to build on other NASA-supported work bringing engineering activities to afterschool programs," says EiE director and Museum vice president Christine Cunningham. In 2011, with $320,000 from the agency's Space Technology Mission Directorate, EiE developed two NASA-themed modules for its afterschool curriculum Engineering Adventures that have reached an estimated 5,000 teachers and 74,000 kids.

PLANETS principal investigator Joelle Clark, the associate director for professional development programs at NAU-CSTL, is a long-time EiE collaborator who facilitates workshops across the country. PLANETS is one of 27 projects funded in 2015 through a $42 million NASA initiative to improve public scientific literacy and STEM education. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center (Astrogeology) is also a PLANETS collaborator.

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The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500