Classroom Astrobiology was inspired by an introductory online science course taught at Arizona State University called Habitable Worlds. This course teaches ASU non-science undergraduate students about science through the exciting themes of the Drake Equation (you can learn more about this course at the newsroom release on ASU Online’s website). Classroom Astrobiology is the extension of Habitable Worlds for the elementary through high school classroom and other informal learning settings.
This project started in the Fall of 2012, when Svetlana was awarded funding from ASU's NASA Space Grant Fellowship to initiate Classroom Astrobiology. Since then, the project has taken off and each funding cycle, new and improved lessons were developed.
Svetlana has partnered with two visionaries to make Classroom Astrobiology the best that it can be. They include Ariel Anbar and Sheri Klug Boonstra. Professor Ariel Anbar is an astrobiologist, science educator, and Habitable Worlds founder and leader. Sheri Klug Boonstra is a former K-12 science teacher who has held many science education roles (i.e., leading the Formal Education portion of the Mars Public Engagement Team at NASA JPL, ASU’s NASA Astrobiology Program E/PO efforts, and managing NASA’s Undergraduate Student Research Program.) Svetlana has been leveraging Sheri's leadership in science education and her extensive network of nationwide educators by disseminating materials to teachers at the ASU Mars Education Conference, held at twice a year on ASU's Tempe campus. Over 80 local and international teachers from these conferences and recruited locally have already signed up to pilot lessons in their classrooms and have provided valuable survey feedback. If you are a teacher interested in joining this exciting project, please leave a comment below!
Teacher recruitment and lesson improvement have been steadily progressing. According to 2015 surveys, 74% of the teachers use enrichment materials either weekly or more often. Only 3% almost never use the types of materials being developed. Of the types of materials teachers are interested in getting, 88% would like either in-class materials or more engaging group project materials. Also, 48% showed interest in obtaining in-class computer projects like those developed in Classroom Astrobiology lessons.
These results, while still preliminary, still show that Classroom Astrobiology is being well received by teachers! That is why Svetlana is excited to continue to create and improve new and existing lessons for teachers, and to partner with new mentors, education experts, and interns. Svetlana's goal is to increase the number of adopting educators (formal and informal), and therefore the number of exposed students, to quality science materials.