This course is in some ways a trial run for a new MS program that WJU is considering that I call Space.EPO. That is, the new program would combine the excitement of space exploration and science (including astronomy and Earth observations), and NASA's education and public outreach (EPO) approach, and it is also becoming recognized at NSF. So what is EPO?

In 2005, Andrew Fraknoi, one this course's instructors, wrote an influential article Steps and Missteps toward an Emerging Profession (pdf download) that describes the rise of a new profession of full-time astronomy and space-science education and public outreach (EPO) providers. This builds on the existing planetarium and science-center staffs that have long done such work, but now includes outreach professionals working at NASA and universities to explain the science of new discoveries and missions. It also, in a broader sense, includes teachers and after-school staff and others who want to use the excitement of space to engage kids (and often their parents) in a clearer understanding of the scientific process.

Andy proposed ten ways that EPO providers could be more professional, including the need for more formal training programs. That was the spark that made me realize professional training programs were needed. Last year Laurie Ruberg, another instructor for the course, and I gave a presentation at a national astronomy education meeting advocating the creation of a new online space EPO program. And you are now participating in the first course on what we hope will grow into a MS program.

Another need for a new profession is a journal, and Andy has cofounded one, Astronomy Education Review, that is free and online.And the Astronomical Society of the Pacific has hosted an EPO meeting for the last three years, so a professional society is evolving too.

Discussion Question

Read Andy’s article and consider these questions:
Is there a need for an MS degree so tightly focused on astronomy and space science education? Who would benefit from it? What coursework should it include? How could it be promoted?

Please use the “discussion” tab above to answer, and sign your response with four tildes.


- tychocrater tychocrater Sep 23, 2007

For Deeper Investigation

NASA really invented the current idea of EPO - here is their material on history, strategy and evaluation.