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M.A. Bennett (Astronomical Society of the Pacific)
SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy), expected to begin operations in late 2002, represents a unique opportunity for education and public outreach (EPO). SOFIA is the first research observatory--airborne or ground-based--in which close participation by educators and journalists is being designed into both the physical facility and the administrative structure of the observatory. With the overall goal of contributing to the public's awareness and understanding of science in general and astronomy in particular, the SOFIA EPO program will include formal K-12 and undergraduate educational activities, public outreach, and media relations.
One of the most exciting and unique aspects of the SOFIA EPO program is the observatory's ability to carry up to 10 educators on science flights, enabling them to partner with scientists and see science in action. Some 200 formal and informal educators per year are expected to participate in the SOFIA Airborne Ambassadors program (SAAP). Educators who have participated in SAAP will be encouraged to continue their scientist partnerships and will be supported in their efforts to carry their new-found knowledge and enthusiasm to their students, other educators in their communities, and the general public.
Scientists, engineers, and other members of the SOFIA team will be encouraged to partner with local teachers and visit their classrooms as a part of the SOFIA Education Partners Program (SEPP). This program will enable students to interact with scientists and other professionals on a one-on-one basis. Participating educators may fly onboard SOFIA with their scientist partners. Scientists who participate in this program will be able to work with educators and students in their local communities to forge long-lasting science education partnerships.
The SOFIA EPO staff is interested in forming collaborations with interested organizations, other NASA missions, and individual astronomers. For more information please contact the author.
SOFIA is being developed and will be operated for NASA by USRA. The EPO program is being developed and will be operated jointly by the ASP and SETI Institute.
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