Outreach Services

Public demand for information in the area of space education is high and growing. Teachers at the elementary, middle school, and secondary education levels want to incorporate examples from space science and technology into the curriculum in all subject categories at all levels. The subject matter of this NSCORT strikes many chords of public interest and "pushes many buttons" ranging from concern about Earth's biosphere to interest in recycling technologies, hydroponics, and vegetarianism to fascination with the adventure of manned space exploration and creating new worlds on other planets. Public demand to accommodate tour groups and to accept speaking invitations by schools, civic and service organizations, alumni groups, and by scientific and professional organizations is constant.

This demand for public education by NSCORT led to development of a strategic plan during 1993 to become more pro-active in outreach and to involve more Center personnel in the process. The approach taken was to write a proposal to the Indiana Space Grants Consortium program to fund a summer internship for a professional educator to create standardized presentations on topic areas of greatest public demand. The grant was funded with matching funds courtesy of the Department Heads of Horticulture and Biological Sciences. The summer intern was Ms. Bonnie McClain, a middle school teacher from Yorktown, Indiana. Bonnie McClain is an Enrichment Coordinator and Space Education specialist at her institution. She is involved with the Challenger Center and organizes the annual Indiana Space Education Conference in Muncie. During the summer of 1993, she prepared a slide set and written narrative for a general presentation on CELSS and an introduction to NSCORT. Any Investigator or Trainee in the Center can make the general presentation with the help of the narrative. Their specialty knowledge will accommodate individual variations in presentations and in addressing questions from their audience. During her internship, Bonnie McClain also worked with Food Science and Nutrition faculty to develop two levels of presentation on "Food in Space", another popular topic for NSCORT presentations. She developed one narrative for a standardized presentation on Space Shuttle food (level I), and collected slides from NASA in addition to Shuttle food samples we already had; she also wrote a narrative for a presentation on vegetarian diets in space, introducing the CELSS concept as a way to generate food (level II). Both presentations on Food in Space need additional work before they become available to the Center, but the general one is ready.

It has been our experience that NSCORT Trainees enjoy making presentations to student groups, and it frees up the Director's time for other important duties. The 1993 summer intern suggested that the summer internship program be continued in the future with different kinds of educators. Production of videos and hosting of teacher workshops at Purdue loom for future NSCORT outreach activities. The growing demand for space education outreach further enhanced by the pro-active approach would appear to be very important to NASA for grass roots support of the nation's space program as today's school children become tomorrow's voters and Congressional Representatives. It may be warranted for the agency to support Space Education Outreach Coordinator positions within all of its Centers of Excellence.

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