Nurture Nature Center Receives Prestigious NASA Grant

Nurture Nature Center is one of 9 informal learning institutions across the country to receive NASA grant to attract students to careers in STEM

Nurture Nature Center is one of only 9 informal learning institutions throughout the U.S. to receive a grant from NASA’s Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums, and NASA Visitor Centers Plus Other Opportunities (CP4SMPVC+). NASA announced the 9 selections (totaling almost $10 million in grants) on June 30, 2016. The goal of the NASA program is to attract more students to careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). NASA’s official press release is available here http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-awards-grants-to-nine-informal-learning-institutions.

Nurture Nature Center’s project, called 6┬áDegrees of Influence: Understanding the Interconnectedness of Earth Systems funded for $420,226 over 2 years, supports NASA’s education mission to advance high quality STEM education through the development of NOAA Science on a Sphere and related programming for middle school students, teachers, and minority undergraduates. The project, led by Nurture Nature Center of Easton, PA with partners Maryland Science Center of Baltimore, MD, Lehigh University of Bethlehem, PA, Morgan State University of Baltimore, MD and the outside evaluation firm, People Places & Design Research, focuses on earth science concepts and the cross-cutting theme of interconnectedness, relying on a personal relevance hook 6 Degrees of Influence (similar to the 6 degrees of separation) to capture interest and motivation to further pursue STEM experiences and careers. Nurture Nature Center’s Science Director and Principal Investigator on the project, Dr. Kathryn Semmens explained, many times science and math topics don’t seem relevant to kids and if they don’t care they won’t be interested in pursuing a career in the field. We hope to create programs that will make seemingly far away phenomenon relevant on a local level to spur interest and engagement among students. For instance, we’ll address why what is happening to the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean matters to a person here.

The project will include the development of a Science on a Sphere program and associated arts-based communication workshop to help participants visualize and physically diagram their connections to global issues. Additionally, there will be an undergraduate internship program that engages historically underrepresented youth, as well as teacher education workshops. The two-year project will kick off in February 2017 and there is a need for local school groups to test the programs in fall 2017 for which funding is available. Teachers and schools interested in participating in the project should contact Dr. Kathryn Semmens, ksemmens@nurturenature.org.