Museum of Science, Boston to Develop New STEM Curricula for NASA Project

February 2, 2016

BOSTON, Mass. – Museum of Science, Boston curriculum developers will collaborate on a project to bring new space-themed STEM resources to afterschool programs nationwide. 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 award to the Museum will support its Engineering is Elementary® (EiE®) project in developing three out-of-school time (OST) curriculum units that integrate planetary science with technology and engineering. EiE will also conduct research aimed at better understanding how engineering instruction works in out-of-school settings.

“The Museum is delighted to be part of this innovative and far-reaching initiative,” says Museum president and director Ioannis Miaoulis. “The PLANETS initiative embodies the mission of the Museum’s National Center for Technological Literacy® (NCTL®) to introduce engineering and technological literacy in schools, afterschool programs, 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 work we’ve already done with support from NASA to bring engaging aerospace and aeronautical engineering activities to afterschool programs,” says EiE director and Museum vice president Christine Cunningham. In 2011, with $320,000 in support from NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, EiE developed two NASA-themed modules for its elementary afterschool curriculum Engineering Adventures: “Liftoff: Engineering Rockets and Rovers” and “The Sky’s the Limit: Engineering Flying Technologies.” Both are available online to afterschool programs free of charge and, to date, have collectively reached an estimated 5,000 teachers and 74,000 kids.

The initiative builds on a longstanding relationship. Joëlle Clark, the PLANETS principal investigator and associate director for professional development programs at NAU-CSTL, is also a long-time EiE collaborator who facilitates EiE professional development programs for educators across the country. “This is an amazing opportunity to continue to grow our professional development programs and our relationship with national researchers and curriculum developers like EiE,” she says, “and will serve as a model for future development.” The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center (Astrogeology) is also a project collaborator, providing planetary science content expertise.

PLANETS aims to create OST curriculum modules that are grounded in best practices for STEM teaching and learning, and based on the fundamental questions posed by NASA’s Planetary Science Division—for example: How did our solar system come to be? Which of its characteristics led to the evolution of life? And as humans continue to explore the solar system, what are the opportunities and what are the hazards? NASA experts will be available to consult on curriculum content, and the new modules will feature engineering design challenges that draw on NASA data sets.

The PLANETS project was also designed to address the national goals laid out in the Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan of 2013: providing high-quality PD for OST educators to improve STEM instruction; increasing youth engagement in STEM in OST settings; and better serving students from populations historically underrepresented in STEM careers. The Engineering is Elementary project was launched in 2003 with the express goal of supporting high-quality engineering education for all students, especially those from underrepresented populations.

PLANETS is one of 27 projects funded in fall of 2015 through a $42 million NASA initiative to improve public scientific literacy and the efficacy of STEM education for learners of all ages. Cunningham and EiE’s director of curriculum development Martha Davis traveled to Flagstaff in January 2016 for a project launch meeting at CSTL.

For more information contact Cynthia Berger, 814-574-8017 or Erin Shannon 617-589-0250


About the Museum of Science, Boston

The Museum of Science, Boston is the nation's first science museum with a comprehensive strategy and infrastructure to foster technological literacy in science museums and schools across the United States. Having reached an estimated 10.1 million students and 112,700 educators, its National Center for Technological Literacy® also received the National Science Board's Public Service Award in May 2015. One of the world's largest science centers and Boston's most attended cultural institution, the Museum of Science introduces about 1.4 million visitors a year to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) via dynamic programs and hundreds of interactive exhibits. Founded in 1830, the Museum was first to embrace all the sciences under one roof. Highlights include the Hall of Human Life, Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center, 4-D Theater, and Butterfly Garden.The Science Behind Pixar, created in collaboration with Pixar Animation Studios, has begun a 10-year national tour. The Museum has also led a 10-year, $41 million National Science Foundation-funded Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network of science museums. Visit:



Northern Arizona University’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL) is a teaching, research, evaluation, and professional development resource for in science education. Faculty and staff at the CSTL have extensive experience in research-based science education program development, implementation and evaluation. The Center is responsible for the recruitment, advising, student teaching placement and supervision for secondary science teacher certification at the undergraduate and graduate levels and provides extensive curriculum resources for K-20 pre-service and in-service teachers. Beyond initial certification or related education degrees, the CSTL provides opportunities for continued professional development for both formal and informal educators. The Center’s mission is to have a deep and lasting impact on science education and educators through innovative STEM partnerships, programs, services and scholarship.


About NASA Science Mission Directorate

The Science Mission Directorate (SMD) organizes its work into four broad scientific pursuits: Earth Science, Planetary Science, Heliophysics and Astrophysics. Each of these pursuits is managed by a Division within the Directorate, each having its own science sub-goals. Fundamental research on profound science questions using space-based observatories and related assets is the hallmark of all four areas of NASA's SMD. Research in all four science areas is essential to the fulfillment of national priorities embodied in Presidential initiatives and Congressional legislation, and scientific priorities identified by the Nations' scientific community. The SMD Division Directors play a significant role in support of NASA Scientists both at Headquarters and at NASA centers, universities, institutes and partner agencies the world over.

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