CARA Education and Outreach:
An Overview of CARA Education and Outreach Projects

Outreach and education have been central to the philosophy of the members of CARA even prior to CARA's inception as an NSF Science and Technology Center. This is because the members of CARA strongly believe that educational relationships are reciprocal, that not only do we have valuable knowledge to pass on but that in so doing we will benefit both in the short term and in the long term. Under the auspices of outreach, CARA has fostered a host of long-term personal connections that cross traditional boundaries of age, institutions, cultures, and distance. Perhaps due to the collaborative nature of our research, our outreach efforts have always been built on relationships with diverse partners. As CARA has matured we have begun to see the fruits of these efforts.

CARA has developed outreach programs at all levels of the educational continuum. Our greatest effort and subsequent success has been with minority high school students through the Space Explorers Program. We are confident that we have directly impacted upon the lives of hundreds of Space Explorers because the students themselves have indicated this to us both through surveys and through their actions. Nine out of ten graduates of the Space Explorers Program are in college, while less than six out of ten of their peers can even be expected to graduate high school. This vibrant foundation has spawned numerous offshoot programs and a network of collaborative organizations.

In the following sections we first review the Center's progress in order of age audience reached, and then summarize the Center's knowledge transfer efforts and linkages to other sectors.


Precollege Education

Precollege education is the heart and soul of CARA's outreach efforts and the cornerstone of our K-12 efforts is the Space Explorers Program. The Space Explorers program is a multi-year commitment that aims to increase interest and abilities in math and science of African American students from disadvantaged inner city school systems. The program strives to broaden the Space Explorers' base of scientific knowledge; to improve their abilities in problem solving, critical thinking, and synthesis; to develop their communications skills, to enrich their awareness of career options in science and technology fields, and to increase their motivation to attend college. In short we hope to both introduce and maintain these students in the scientific educational pipeline.

This is achieved through exposure to advanced technology, hands-on activities, and the cultivation of personal relationships with members of CARA's research community. The Space Explorers Program is built upon what are recognized to be four effective strategies of outreach education:

  1. using hands-on (laboratory) activities,
  2. providing multi-year involvement,
  3. conducting residential experiences, and
  4. assuring parental involvement.
The final key component of the program are our partners, particularly the Office of Special Programs (OSP) which serves as our link to the students' families and the Woodlawn community.

Each year there are typically thirty Space Explorers. These are primarily high school students from Hyde Park Career Academy, but occasionally middle school students, and they remain Explorers until they graduate high school. While the individual activities that the core group has participated in over the past seven years are too numerous and varied to describe in detail, the program structure has remained constant. The Explorer activities are divided between residential programs at "Forensics: Or How to Solve a Murder Mystery and Teach Science at the Same Time" at the National Science Teachers Convention. CARA is also partnering with industry to promote the creation of the technologically advanced detectors needed to pursue our science. CARA scientists are consulting with both TRW and Hypres Inc. Finally, the CARA web page serves as a resource for astronomers, the general public and educators. The site contains general information on Antarctica, Astronomy, CARA Research and a suite of tested experiments complete with teacher notes.


University Education

At first glance the Center's university education programs seem fairly typical. The scale of involvement of students may be higher than normal, with 77 students having participated, partly due to the aggressive stance CARA takes toward education and partly because of its support of undergraduates in research. Otherwise, these efforts seem no different than non- STC programs. What is not obvious from the statistics are the advantages to the university students of participating in an STC. CARA students are part of a much wider, and more supportive network than are other university students. As a result of our experience with the Space Explorers, CARA knows well how critical a sound social support structure is. This broadened participation at the university level has two similar benefits. First, these students, by being members of a larger organization, have access to a rich array of other researchers and staff. Second, the network these students become a part of tends to support them and help them stay connected as they change institutions. This is perhaps why 2 out of 3 participants are still with the Center and remain with CARA for more than one year, and why one out of three postdoctoral fellows were CARA graduate students.

CARA is also able to add another dimension to university education by connecting graduate students who are interested in science education with willing students (e.g. Space Explorers). Over each of the past seven years CARA has supported one graduate student and encouraged them to experience classroom teaching. This initiative has been very effective in connecting the sometimes distant worlds of precollege education and research. It also has had greater ramifications as it served as the impetus for numerous new outreach initiatives and a few alternative science careers. The progress of L. Rebull (CARA TA '93-4) and T. Duncan (CARA TA '94-5) illustrate the positive influence of the Center.

L. Rebull best exemplifies how Center resources can act as a catalyst. She credits CARA with introducing her to the world of science education. In a newspaper article on outreach, ``Rebull said it was through her required teaching-assistantship working with inner-city high school students and the University's Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica that opened her eyes to the possibilities that teaching could happen in other ways. `I still honestly don't think I could ever teach in a high school classroom, but I really enjoy a more informal interaction,' she said."([]) She has subsequently taken a leadership role in founding both the Science Partners For Teachers, which seeks to establishing one-on-one partnerships with Chicago-area K-12 school teachers, and the Chicago Public School/University of Chicago Internet Project (CUIP).

T. Duncan has recently embarked on a career as an assistant professor at the Portland State University Center for Science Education. His success exemplifies CARA's ability to cultivate a new generation of well prepared science educators. His duties will include teaching and developing a graduate program in science teaching. We can see the seeds of CARA's outreach methodology sprout as his teaching will include an innovative course that uses the Columbia River Basin as a theme for developing students' critical thinking, writing, and science/math skills. This course will be multidisciplinary, team-taught (physics, anthropology and literature), and will utilize current issues surrounding the Columbia river basin (energy generation, impact on the environment, cultural history of the area, etc.).

A particularly fortuitous relationship has been cultivated with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP), a collaboration that truly demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of science. AIP is a two-year associate degree institution for Art and Design. As a result of a the efforts of CARA postdoctoral fellow D. Alvarez, a simple discussion three years ago that presented a number of tangible problems associated with working in the Antarctic launched the AIP Extreme Cold Weather Design curriculum. For the past three years, students have designed materials such as specialized gloves to meet the needs of researchers at the Pole. A number of functional prototypes have been produced and some are actually being used at the Pole. CARA researchers have been involved in all stages of this process, suggesting problems to solve, design modifications (e.g. ``Those pedals are too small for my boots."), and field testing the prototypes. This project has expanded in many directions as students have contacted industrial firms which have produced professional quality prototypes, and because this austral summer the top AIP student accompanied the prototypes to the pole to supervise the testing. There are two interesting footnotes to this project: both a student and a researcher, partly due to this collaboration, have been hired by Disney Corporation, and CARA and AIP have jointly applied for a grant under the NSF Advanced Technological Education program to enhance the project.


Knowledge Transfer

CARA has been proactive in disseminating the scientific, technical, and pedagogical expertise of the Center. In addition to publishing over 50 articles in prestigious journals, the members of CARA have utilized popular lectures, conferences, undergraduate curricula and consultations with industry to further the reach of CARA's collective knowledge. Because the general population is fascinated with Antarctica, CARA researchers are always in high demand as guest speakers. Many of these lectures are informal (e.g. Rotary Clubs) and while they have a profound impact on the audience, accurate numbers are hard to gauge. Conservative estimates suggest over 10,000 people a year attend such lectures. A more in-depth view of the cutting-edge science of the South Pole is also brought to life through planetarium shows, such as ``The Birth of the Universe" which J. Bally presents, and through the incorporation of CARA science into undergraduate curricula.

In addition to presenting at traditional forums such as the Antarctic Experimenters Meetings, CARA researchers have hosted conferences to focus on the science of CARA. This year has been a particularly active one for conferences. CARA researchers have organized three workshops focusing on South Pole Astrophysics: The Ten Meter, Photodissociation and Photochemistry in Interstellar Medium, and Astrophysics from Antarctica. CARA is also making efforts to share our expertise in creating successful outreach programs. The Space Explorers model has been successfully transferred to a rural setting with the Yerkes Space Explorers program. Most recently, R. Landsberg discussed the strategy and content of the ``Crime Laboratory Investigations" with his talk ``Forensics: Or How to Solve a Murder Mystery and Teach Science at the Same Time" at the National Science Teachers Convention. CARA is also partnering with industry to promote the creation of the technologically advanced detectors needed to pursue our science. CARA scientists are consulting with both TRW and HyPress Inc. Finally, the CARA web page serves as a resource for astronomers, the general public and educators. The site contains general information on Antarctica, Astronomy, CARA Research and a suite of tested experiments complete with teacher notes.


Linkages to Other Sectors

CARA itself is composed of a diverse group of institutions, and perhaps this is why so many connections to other organizations and institutions have been formed. Many of these collaborations are discussed in the text with the project they involve. CARA has worked with museums, planetaria, other STC's, "the mass-media," manufacturing companies, etc. The favored path for these interconnections has been through educational channels, although we are beginning to form more industrial ties. Currently CARA researchers are collaborating with Hyres, and TRW. Nalco Corporation has provided 10K in funding for the Explorers computer laboratory for the past three years, and we have worked with Motorola to develop simulation exercises based on the South Pole. A list of educational partners would include: the Office of Special Programs (OSP), Adler Planetarium, The Chicago Public Schools, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Laboratory, The Oriental Institute, The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, Gateway Technical College, The Fernbank Science Center, and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.