Galileo Educator Network (GEN)



In response to the need to create the next generation of NASA explorers and promote a science literate populace, scientists and educators from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA), the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), and the New Jersey Astronomy Center for Education (NJACE) are carrying out the "Galileo Educator Network (GEN): Advancing Science Literacy through Astronomy and Teacher Professional Development" project. GEN is creating distributed and leveraged professional development (PD) nationwide with the primary goals to:

  1. Help teacher educators and teacher professional development providers engage and educate teachers of astronomy (and general science), especially in grades 3-9, using effective instructional strategies and educational resources, with engaging and inspiring content.
  2. Promote the effective use of NASA-developed and NASA-supported resources by teacher educators and teacher professional development providers, through integration of astronomy/space science content with Galileo-inspired science inquiry and exploration.

In addition to the ASP partnerships with NESTA, NOAO, and NJACE, the Galileo Educator Network (GEN) partnered closely in Year 1 with four other regional sites from ASP's Project ASTRO National Network: West Chester, PA, San Diego, CA, Cincinnati, OH, and Boulder, CO. Early on, leaders from each of the partner organizations/sites attended a 2-day GEN Partners Institute, with goals to include (a) examining key NASA resources, and (b) developing a model for a 2-day GEN workshop aimed at teacher PD providers. This resulting model is being implemented (and iterated on) in two GEN Professional Development Institutes (PDIs), in Years 2 and 3. Each year, we will recruit both individuals and pairs of professional developers from 18 sites around the country, provide each site GEN-related materials (including Universe at Your Fingertips 2.0 DVD-ROMs), and expect each site to deliver at least one 15-hour GEN PD offering for at least 15 local classroom teachers, using the training and materials they receive at the national PDI. All those trained through the PDIs (as well as those through the original GEN Partners Institute) become certified by the project as NASA Galileo Educator Fellows. Worth noting is that in the months following the original Partners Institute, ASP and each partner site will develop and implement their own 15-hour GEN PD program for 15+ teachers in their region -- or in NESTA's case for teachers who start their GEN PD at a NESTA-run NSTA short course, with follow-up sessions in NESTA-developed PD webinars. In all cases, upon completion of the 15-hour PD, teacher participants will become certified by GEN as NASA Galileo Educators. Throughout the project, ASP and partners will support the Galileo Educator Fellows and Galileo Educators, and grow a GEN community of practice through (a) regular communications, (b) face-to-face gatherings and networking opportunities, and (c) dynamic online forums and web content.

Including the 8 organizations participating in the Partners Institute, GEN in sum will develop 44 sites to each implement 15-hour PD opportunities for classroom teachers. With one or two staff trained per site, we will thus develop 44 to 88 NASA Galileo Educator Fellows. With each site subsequently recruiting at least 15 teachers, the project will result in at least 44x15 = 660 classroom NASA Galileo Educators, each having engaged in at least 15 hours of high-quality professional learning.

Lead Organizations

Astronomical Society of the Pacific




The key partners with the lead organization, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), are the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA), the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), and the New Jersey Astronomy Center for Education (NJACE). Each organization brings expertise and experience germane to the proposed activities, and has a proven track record of separate and joint successes in science education programs and products.

The ASP was founded in 1889 with one of its earliest purposes to disseminate astronomical information – a mission which has flourished with astronomers' inexhaustible exploration of the universe. The organization has become the largest general astronomy society in the world, with members from over 70 nations. The ASP increases the understanding and appreciation of astronomy by engaging scientists, educators, enthusiasts and the public to advance science and science literacy.

NESTA is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization formed in 1985 that works to advance and improve Earth science education at all levels. The organization, which has ~950 members, provides support for its membership through a variety of services including publications, events, email correspondence, and its website.

NOAO is the US national research & development center for ground-based night-time astronomy. The main goals of the NOAO EPO program are to inspire young people to become explorers in science and research-based technology, and to reach out to groups and individuals who have been historically under-represented in the physics & astronomy science enterprise.

NJACE and its Science Education Institute is based at Raritan Valley Community College, and is a leader and innovator in teacher professional development programs in astronomy.

Partnerships with Regional Centers. In addition to the ASP partnerships with NESTA, NOAO, and NJACE, the Galileo Educator Network (GEN) worked closely in Year 1 with other regional sites from the ASP’s Project ASTRO National Network. These sites hosted teacher professional development workshops and provided ongoing support for educators in their regions. Listed below are the ASTRO-GEN sites, with information on their host institutions.

Regional ASTRO Sites Serving as GEN Partners*

[City, State; Host
Institution; Venue]:

  • San Francisco, CA; ASP; nonprofit educational organization
  • Tucson, AZ; National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO); national observatory
  • Branchburg, NJ; New Jersey Astronomy Center for Education; community college, planetarium
  • West Chester, PA; West Chester University; university
  • San Diego, CA; San Diego State University; university
  • Cincinnati, OH; Cincinnati Observatory Center; science
  • Boulder, CO; LASP, University of Colorado; university

* Note that NESTA is also a GEN partner.

These ASTRO sites were selected for a combination of reasons, including: (a) prior collaborative experiences they have had with ASP; (b) preparedness for supporting and advancing area teachers with new resources; (c) their geographic and/or demographic advantages in serving a diverse audience of educators and students; and (d) a strong and focused interest in NASA space science content and resources.






Effectiveness and Impact

Impact Evaluation Results:


Participants completed “retrospective pretests” in which they rated their knowledge before and after the workshop on a scale from 1 (none) to 5 (complete). Knowledge of the Earth, Moon and Sun systems and awareness of NASA resources tended to see the largest pre-post gains, with average increases of 0.90 (Standard Deviation = 0.54) and 1.14 (SD = 0.42) respectively.


In May 2012, evaluators distributed a follow-up survey for teachers who had participated in GEN PD workshops during the 2011-2012 school year. Teachers answered questions about what they remembered from the workshops, and what activities, resources or pedagogical strategies they had used in their classrooms that year. Seventeen teachers responded, representing 37% of eligible participants.

Based on their experiences in the GEN workshops, 88% of respondents taught a lesson on a specific astronomy concept, and nearly as many (76%) had taught lessons about the nature and practices of science. Almost two-thirds of respondents had used materials from Universe at Your Fingertips in their classrooms, while about one-third recalled using NASA educational resources. Moreover, slightly more than half of the respondents (59%) had shared activities and ideas they had learned from their GEN workshops with other teachers.



Audience Quotes:

Some respondents shared other ways they had used what they had learned in the workshops in their teaching that year.

I have one student who is ganza about astronomy and I let him take a Galileoscope home to use over the weekend. He was in seventh heaven.
My students had a science fair and I taught them about the nature of science instead of the traditional steps of the "scientific method". It helped them to be more open-minded about the outcomes of their experiments.
I have used it to help me think about active ways to teach my other content and to get students better engaged as "pro" thinkers within that content. My students in social studies engaged as archeologists (which requires a little scientific thinking) and historians. I also added more simulations (which I already love) - my students in social studies acted as explorers and wrote journals so we could talk about the nature of history and where information comes from in this content.