James Webb Space Telescope: Near Infrared Camera (JWST-NIRCam)
Our NIRCam mission, led by a prominent woman astronomer, especially targets K-14 girls to combat the misconceptions that women can't do or enjoy physical science. Starting before the scheduled launch of JWST, we have sustained a long-term, far-reaching partnership with the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) to leverage project educators, NIRCam scientists, programs and facilities to enhance astronomy and scientific literacy for girls and young women using the context of JWST science and STEM education principles. This collaborative partnership provides sustained mentoring and progressive, motivating experiences in a support group of 2.7 million girls and 915,000 adult leaders in the USA extending worldwide to 10 million girls in over 140 countries. Our program with the Girl Scouts has a multiplicative effect through their families, local community groups and potentially as future parents. We have conducted a multi-faceted collaborative effort to address specific needs of the GSUSA including (1) the review of existing badge programs for younger girls, (2) new, community-based and pedagogically effective activities and research experiences for older girls, (3) interaction experiences in person and on-line with inspiring mentors and role-models, and (4) in depth leadership experiences for GSUSA adult trainers in actual observatory settings. This effort has helped bolster the STEM pipeline by engaging ~20 astronomy graduate students in the creation and delivery of educational materials. Even after graduation these students have continued their educational involvement. We have also developed cosmology materials and teaching techniques that are applied regularly in the college classroom for non-science majors.
University of Arizona
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona
- Astronomy Camp
- The University of Arizona
- Lockheed-Martin ATC
- Rochester Institute of Technology
Through our partnership with the GSUSA we provide training opportunities for adult leaders selected from all US Girl Scout Councils. Through close involvement with our local Southern Arizona Council, we have strengthened their STEM programs in minority communities throughout Arizona. Using University observatory and education facilities at Astronomy Camp on Mt. Lemmon, we conduct two workshops per year specifically for Girl Scout leader/trainers, emphasizing hands-on experiences with real telescopes and image processing techniques. These adult trainers are equipped and supported to train other leaders at their own council locations. At the historic Mt. Lemmon Observatory, participants gain an in-situ perspective on the pioneering "early-days" of infrared astronomy. The hands-on, interactive and "fun" learning style of the Camps has proven to be extremely effective among both adults and teenagers as documented in detail on the Camp web site (astronomycamp.org). The existing infrastructure, built over many years, provides an extremely inexpensive workshop opportunity. Participants will tour the UA's Mirror Lab to experience technology aspects of JWST’s optical system. Engineers from Lockheed-Martin ATC volunteer their time to support NIRCam’s E/PO mission and have hosted large events for Girl Scouts. One of NIRCam’s science team members conducts E/PO programs for the GSUSA and local community at the Center for Imaging Science at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Indirectly reaching thousands of students, Girl Scouts, and families through our Newsletter and through the programs that are held by our more than 200 Astronomy Camp participants.
We have trained 225 GSUSA adult leaders from 71 US Councils and two foreign countries over the program lifetime.
This collaborative partnership with the Girl Scouts of the USA provides sustained mentoring and progressive, motivating experiences in a support group of 2.7 million girls and 915,000 adult leaders in the USA extending worldwide to 10 million girls in over 140 countries.
This effort has helped bolster the STEM pipeline by engaging ~20 astronomy graduate students in the creation and delivery of educational materials.
Effectiveness and Impact
New materials are regionally pilot-tested and then nationally field-tested with a special emphasis on girls and their adult leaders in the Girl Scouts. This formative evaluation phase incorporates field-testing of learning materials using both quantitative and qualitative methods, with an emphasis on pre-and post-testing. The second phase uses summative evaluation strategies to determine and document quantitatively the breadth of audience who use the material, to document the participation of JWST/NIRCam scientists, to be certain that the training of JWST scientists effectively and efficiently helps them successfully implement the materials, and to support E/PO reporting requirements.
We have trained 225 GSUSA adult leaders from 71 US Councils and two foreign countries. We communicate with this group monthly via online newsletters and we support their local activities with materials, advice, and encouragement. Many of these leaders host school events, afterhours star parties, summer camp programs using the STEM principles we have taught and the JWST materials we provide.
The national GSUSA revised its Sky Search badge for Junior Girls based on our feedback about its inherent misconceptions and oversights.
NIRCam’s beryllium optical bench is engraved “Go Girl Scouts” in honor of our partnership and continued working relationship with the GSUSA.
Awards and Recognition
NIRCam’s work with the GSUSA was cited in McCarthy’s Education Award from the American Astronomical Society (2012).