NLSI Lunar Science Conference (2008)
Connecting Audiences with Lunar Exploration. S. Shipp,1 C. Shupla,1 S. Stockman,2 C. Runyon,3 M. Lindstrom, 4 J. Allen,5 1Lunar and Planetary Institute, 3600 Bay Area Boulevard, Houston, Texas 77058, firstname.lastname@example.org, 2 SSAI, 10210 Greenbelt Road, Suite 600, Lanham, Maryland 20706, email@example.com, 3Cass, 4 SSAI, 5SSAI, 3College of Charleston, Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math, 66 George Street, Charleston, South Carolina 29424, RunyonC@cofc.edu, 4Planetary Science Division, NASA Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 20546, firstname.lastname@example.org, 5Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Education, NASA Johnson Space Center, Mail Stop KA, Houston, Texas 77058, email@example.com.
Introduction: Within the next two decades, America plans to return to the Moon to live and work, resulting in numerous mission opportunities. Coupled with these missions are the opportunities to engage and educate the public in lunar exploration. In March 2008 the Lunar and Planetary Institute hosted Reaching the Moon, an educational forum that brought together formal and informal educators to identify key lunar science and exploration messages for their audiences. Participants included planetary scientists, planetary science education specialists, museum and planetarium educators, writers, and classroom teachers. These conversations and others conducted by members of the lunar science education community on best practices in science education can serve to inform development of future lunar public engagement and educational programs. Common Questions: A series of questions arose that were common to all audiences, in the experiences of the participants: 1. Why should we explore the Moon? Why are we going back? Haven’t we already been there? 2. Is the investment worthwhile? What do we get out of it? What does this opportunity deny us? 3. How can we justify developing other planets and the Moon when there have been negative developmental impacts on Earth? 4. Why should we be interested in current lunar exploration? Multiple responses were identified for each of these questions. However, it was apparent that the response must resonate with the audience. In the case of why we should return to the Moon, the Apollo-era audience commonly needs less convincing than the Generation X and Y audiences. Indeed, these audiences are resistant to “spin” messages, but respond better to “downto-Earth” communication conducted as an open dialog. Some generational and cultural audiences feel that such dialog needs to be part of the decision-making processes that informs America’s programs. Common Message Components: Participants concluded that all messages must convey that everyone, regardless of age or ethnicity, has a role in – and will benefit from - current and future lunar exploration. The content must be placed in the context of audience needs and interests. The use of “jargon,” and
the focus on mission-centric content rather than scientific questions, precludes engagement in NASA’s exploration. Lunar exploration should be presented as an ongoing story of exploration and discovery that encompasses: why we are going to the Moon; what we hope to discover; what we are discovering; what challenges we face; how people can help to solve these challenges through science and engineering; and how we benefit. All audiences need to be engaged through multiple paths, which include direct experiences and the use of new media tools and platforms. Audience Needs and Access: Participants described the needs of different audiences and the challenges in accessing these audiences. The need for understanding and leveraging audience interests cut across all categories, as does the need for understanding and addressing audience misconceptions. Informal audiences (general public). Informal audiences include those exploring museums, science centers, planetariums, and libraries. These audiences extend beyond building-based institutions to encompass astronomical societies, after-school clubs and programs, Boys and Girls clubs, participants in lunar viewing events, and others. The recommended goal for informal audiences is to engage them in positive lunar exploration experiences and encourage further exploration and participation. Informal educators need access to content, data, and imagery appropriate for public exhibits. Informal educators not familiar with lunar science and exploration need access to training in content and engagement practices, as well as educational resources that are flexible and fun. New media venues, such as podcasting, grassroots video, data mashups, blogs, wikis, and social networking platforms (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, Ning, Second Life), and the use of mobile devices are allowing people to connect with each other – and with lunar science and exploration – in new ways. While multigenerational, these technologies offer opportunities to engage younger generations that currently may not be significantly invested in NASA’s return to the Moon -- generations whose support is vital to future NASA endeavors . Leveraging these technologies requires an understanding that they evolve rapidly, involve global audiences, and that they
NLSI Lunar Science Conference (2008)
are bi- (multi-) directional; users expect to be part of the dialog and authentic problem-solving, and not merely recipients of information. Formal audiences (K-12 and pre-service teachers). While lunar science and exploration fits well in the purview of the science classroom, it also can be integrated easily into other studies such as history, social studies, and engineering. However, in-service and preservice classroom educators face many constraints, including a vanishingly small allotment of time to include information not directly related to high-stakes testing content. In addition, educators increasingly are being tasked with providing interdisciplinary student experiences. In the face of an overwhelming, and often unsearchable, plethora of classroom resources, they need assistance in identifying materials that specifically address their teaching responsibilities. There is little need for development of new materials. Most elementary and middle school teachers responsible for teaching science do not have science degrees or research experience. Many are teaching the basics of lunar science (eclipses, Earth-Moon comparisons) with limited understanding [2, 3]. Formal educators need access to training opportunities, including institutes, research experiences, mentoring relationships, and internships, to allow them to build their content expertise and abilities to facilitate authentic student inquiry. These professional development experiences need to be diverse and scaffolded so that they deepen their knowledge and pedagogical skills. Specific resources, such as authentic student inquiry activities involving lunar data sets, are needed to augment the training and mentoring of classroom educators. Undergraduate audiences. Undergraduates in introductory courses or lunar exploration-related disciplines want relevant reasons for supporting the return to the Moon and for becoming involved. They want to understand specifically how they can contribute to lunar and space exploration. Toward that end, relevant, authentic participatory experiences are needed, ranging from data access, to engineering design challenges to internships and mentoring by lunar scientists and engineers. Connecting Successfully: Well executed lunar science and exploration education programs will result in an informed and educated public that advocates for lunar exploration and actively participates in the process. However, the lunar science and exploration community must take an active role in engaging the public and meeting their needs; informal educators, classroom teachers, and faculty at community colleges and universities cannot “make a case” to their audiences with-
out dialog and interaction with the lunar community and access to current information and data. References:  Dittmar, M.L. (2004) Market Study for Space Exploration, Dittmar Associates, Inc., Houston, TX.  Brunsell, E. and Marcks, J. (2004) Astronomy Education Review, 2, 38-46.  Trundle, K., Atwood, R., and Christopher, J. (2002), Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39, 633-658.