ACHIEVEMENTS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Margaret A. Honey, Kenne A. Dibner, and Tiffany E. Taylor, Editors
Committee to Assess Science Activation
Board on Science Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
A Consensus Study Report of
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This activity was supported by contracts between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NNH17CB02B/80HQTR19F0043). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-49734-3
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-49734-5
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25569
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2020). NASA’s Science Activation Program: Achievements and Opportunities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25569.
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COMMITTEE TO ASSESS SCIENCE ACTIVATION
MARGARET A. HONEY (Chair), New York Hall of Science, Corona
NETA A. BACHALL, Princeton University, NJ
BRONWYN BEVAN, University of Washington, Seattle
WENDY GRAM, Consultant, Boulder, CO
ROGERS HALL, Peabody College/Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
ABIGAIL JURIST LEVY, Education Development Center, Waltham, MA
CATHRYN A. MANDUCA, Carleton College, Northfield, MN
RAFI SANTO, New York University, New York
DENNIS SCHATZ, Pacific Science Center, Seattle, WA
MARK SHOWALTER, SETI Institute, Redwood City, CA
SUSAN SULLIVAN, University of Colorado Boulder
BRYAN KENT WALLACE, Fisk University, Nashville, TN
MING-YING WEI, Retiree, College Park, MD
JULIE YU, Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA
KENNE A. DIBNER, Study Director
TIFFANY E. TAYLOR, Associate Program Officer
JESSICA COVINGTON, Senior Program Assistant
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Director, Board on Science Education
BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION
ADAM GAMORAN (Chair), William T. Grant Foundation (president), New York, NY
MEGAN BANG, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
VICKI L. CHANDLER, Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute, San Francisco, CA
SUNITA V. COOKE, MiraCosta College, San Diego, CA
RUSH HOLT, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Washington, DC
CATHRYN A. MANDUCA, Carleton College, Northfield, MN
JOHN C. MATHER, Webb Space Telescope, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
TONYA MATTHEWS, Michigan Science Center, Detroit
WILLIAM PENUEL, School of Education, University of Colorado Boulder
STEPHEN L. PRUITT, Southern Regional Education Board, Atlanta, GA
K. RENAE PULLEN, Caddo Parish Schools, Shreveport, LA
K. ANN RENNINGER, Swarthmore College, PA
MARCY H. TOWNS, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
HEIDI SCHWEINGRUBER, Director
It is an honor to be asked to direct a consensus study for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and to have conducted this study at the request of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) made this work both personally and professionally meaningful. NASA stands at the forefront of scientific discovery and exploration, and the agency’s willingness to leverage its expertise and deploy its engaging assets to advance learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is admirable.
NASA’s work in the area of education and public engagement needs to be pursued with the same level of depth and care as its scientific research. There is a great deal that we know from the fields of behavioral, cognitive, and neuro sciences about how people learn. We know, for example, that engagement is key, not just in terms of interest, but in terms that are meaningful and relevant to learners and that build on and enhance their prior knowledge and skills. We know that for educational innovations such as technologies, curricula, visualizations, and data models to be effective, they need to engage learners actively and provide easy ways for novices to get started (low floor), as well as ways for learners to work on increasingly sophisticated projects over time (high ceiling). The recent National Academies study How People Learn II contains the most up-to-date information on individual and cultural variations in learning, as well as the broad range of sociocultural factors that impact how learning takes root. In short, we have an abundance of evidence on which to draw in designing the highest-impact learning opportunities.
The National Academies consensus studies are designed to foster a rigorous process of debate, dialogue, and collective thinking about the issues
at hand. They are deeply anchored in two distinct, but related kinds of expertise—what is known from published, peer-reviewed research studies and what is embodied in the professional wisdom and experience of committee members. The process results in a report that reflects the deliberations, contributions, and consensus of all committee members.
The Committee to Assess Science Activation comprised an extraordinarily talented group of individuals who brought to the table deep knowledge of relevant bodies of work in fields that included planetary science, earth science, space science, education policy, teaching and learning, collective impact, and science education, along with their good humor, dedication, and willingness to roll up their sleeves and accomplish a great deal in a very short amount of time. We were fortunate to have an extraordinary group of talented colleagues with whom to work on this project, and we thank each of them for their substantial contributions.
We also wish to thank the leadership and staff of NASA’s Science Activation Program, along with their education partners, all of whom participated in a number of meetings designed to help the committee understand their desired outcomes and where the opportunities and challenges reside. We know we speak for the entire committee when we say we appreciate their transparency, their willingness to field endless questions, and their patience in helping us understand the important motivations behind NASA’s investments in and commitment to this work.
Finally, all National Academies projects are driven and supported by a team of extraordinarily talented staff and leaders. From organizing meetings, to managing committee logistics, to tracking conversations and decisions, to pushing our collective work to ensure that it would be as rigorous and comprehensive as possible, the staff are professionals who know how to deliver with care and quality. We thank all of them for their support and wisdom.
We reflect all of the voices of the committee when we say that working on this project has been inspiring. NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is full of exceptional people doing transformative work. The agency’s desire to engage its people and use its resources to further the public’s—especially young people’s—understanding and love of science is a mission that will help ensure the importance of the agency’s work for generations to come.
Chair, Committee to
Assess Science Activation
Kenne A. Dibner
The Committee to Assess Science Activation was charged with providing a “concise” assessment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Science Activation (SciAct) Program and, as such, was asked to do the work of a full National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine consensus study on a shortened timeline. In order to achieve this task, a number of people devoted time and energy to supporting our work. We owe a sincere debt of gratitude to all involved.
First, we wish to extend a thank you to this project’s sponsors. Throughout this process, Kristen Erickson of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, her colleague Lin Chambers, and her other coworkers at NASA were on hand to provide resources, answer committee questions, and offer insight. We are profoundly grateful for their support.
Over the course of the study, we heard from many individuals who were able to shed light on the SciAct portfolio or relevant external issues. We appreciate all SciAct awardees who took time out of their schedules to provide the committee with insight on their projects, and we also value the contributions of the scholars who presented to the committee so that we might bring in outside expertise.
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the
integrity of the deliberative process. We thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Alphonse T. DeSena, Jr., ATD Discern, LLC, Arlington, VA; Cristin Dorgelo, President and CEO, Association of Science-Technology Centers; Noah Weeth Feinstein, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Jill L. Karsten, Directorate for Geosciences, National Science Foundation; Makenzie Lystrup, Civil Space, Ball Aerospace; Christopher F. McKee, Physics Department, University of California, Berkeley; Cathy Olkin, Institute Scientist, Southwest Research Institute; Rajul Pandya, Thriving Earth Exchange, American Geophysical Union; Darryl N. Williams, Science and Education, The Franklin Institute; Laurence R. Young, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Susan A. Yoon, Teaching Learning and Leadership Division, University of Pennsylvania.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report, nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Michael Lach, The University of Chicago, and Claude Canizares, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
The committee wishes to extend its gratitude to the staff of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE), in particular to Heidi Schweingruber, director of the Board on Science Education, whose strategic thinking and dedication helped ensure a timely and impactful report; to Tiffany Taylor, who went above and beyond in her supportive role to draft text, edit chapters, and serve as a full partner throughout this process; and to Jessica Covington, whose expert and efficient administrative leadership enabled smooth meetings and report production. Kirsten Sampson Snyder of the DBASSE staff deftly guided us through the National Academies review process, and Rona Briere and Allie Boman provided invaluable editorial assistance. Yvonne Wise of the DBASSE staff oversaw the production of the report.
Finally, the committee wishes to thank Margaret Honey, study chair, for her skilled leadership and clear vision on this tight timeline. Every once in a while, this process results in an unforeseen ancillary benefit: a lifelong friendship. It has been both a pleasure and an honor to work closely with Margaret, and this assessment was truly strengthened by her expertise and wisdom.
Kenne A. Dibner,
Committee to Assess