7 March 2023

EPD Mini-Grant Awardees at AAS 241 in Seattle

Tom Rice

Tom Rice American Astronomical Society (AAS)

The AAS supports the professional development of educators in the astronomy community via the Education & Professional Development (EPD) Mini-Grant program. Four awardees of the AAS-EPD Mini-Grant were present at AAS 241 in Seattle, Washington, in January 2023, where they delivered or promoted their EPD-funded work. In this post, I’d like to highlight them and thank them for sharing their expertise and resources with the AAS community!

  1. “Supporting Your Introductory Astronomy Courses” — Presented by the AAS Education Committee, Astrobites, and WorldWide Telescope (PI: M. Foley)
  2. “A Course to Foster Genuine Relation in Astronomy Through Mentorship” — (PI: N. Cabrera-Salazar)
  3. “Engaging Students with New Data-Driven Astronomy Investigations” — Presented by Ed Prather, Ardis Herrold, and Rubin Observatory (PI: E. Prather)
  4. “Spectrum: Empowering Equitable Excellence” — Presented by Natasha Latouf, Jeffrey McKaig, Emma Schwartzman, and Jenna Cann (PI: F. Munshi)

Blog posts from each of these authors will be individually featured on our Education Committee Blog in the coming weeks, so stay tuned (and subscribe if you haven’t already). A few posts from previous EPD Mini-Grant awardees are listed here: [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

Workshop: “Supporting Your Introductory Astronomy Courses

Kate Meredith presents science education materials
Kate Meredith (GLAS Education, AAS Education Committee) shares astronomy teaching resources with workshop attendees. Photo by © CorporateEventImages/Todd Buchanan 2023.


Presented by the AAS Education Committee, Astrobites, and WorldWide Telescope (PI: M. Foley)

On Saturday, 7 January, this all-day workshop took place for attendees to integrate various materials into their introductory courses. See the workshop description:

“Join the AAS Education Committee and leading astronomy educators for this workshop to support your introductory astronomy courses. All participants will receive a kit of hands-on materials, access to digital resources, and access to classroom versions of Sky & Telescope for instructional use. Attendees will also learn how to visualize concepts and data using the interactive features of WorldWide Telescope.

Learn how to make use of the Astrobites database — over 2,500 astronomy articles written to be accessible to the public — to teach both foundational astronomy and groundbreaking research. Attendees will have the opportunity to try out a variety of hands-on materials that connect these topics to Sky & Telescope articles and science standards at the high school and core topics at the undergraduate level. Tactile graphics, 3D printed models, and kinesthetic activities will showcase an accessible and multimodal approach to teaching topics such as the electromagnetic spectrum and observational astronomy.”

More photos from their workshop can be found at https://photos.aas.org/.

Presentation: "From Intent to Impact: A Course to Foster Genuine Relation in Astronomy Through Mentorship"

Irene Nava and Asia Bright of Movement Consulting. Image credit: Zachary Gardner/chillz-media.com.


Dra. Nicole Cabrera-Salazar presented her company’s course, entitled “Intent to Impact.” Dra. Cabrera-Salazar’s course was previously promoted in this Education Committee blog post.

“Along with teaching and research, mentoring and advising is an integral part of the professional academic experience. Although we enter the role with good intentions, we are also expected to jump into the practice without any preparation or training. Implicit and explicit bias can strain our relationships with mentees, which can lead to disillusionment, burnout, and eventually attrition. A strong mentor relationship is instrumental to the success of students of marginalized identities, many of whom report having a supportive mentor as their reason for persisting in their field.

Intent to Impact (I2I) is a course designed to address the dearth of mentor training in academic spaces. Through an active-learning community, I2I prepares academics in positions of privilege and power to mentor students of marginalized identities through emotional, relational, and collective work. This course aims to empower academics at any career level with the tools to practice equitable and inclusive actions in their mentor-mentee relationship.”

The Intent-to-Impact course is now underway, having begun on 27 January.

Workshop: “Engaging Students with New Data-Driven Astronomy Investigations

Dr. Ed Prather is sharing workshop materials with participants. Photo by © CorporateEventImages/Todd Buchanan 2023.


Ed Prather (University of Arizona) and Ardis Herrold (Rubin Observatory) presented a half-day workshop focused on online, data-focused astronomy teaching and learning materials. See the description:

“Rubin Observatory’s Education and Public Outreach team has developed a suite of classroom-tested online investigations that incorporate a unique combination of data-representations, simulations and analysis tasks to guide learners’ exploration of contemporary astronomy data. Each standalone investigation comes with a teacher guide, formative/summative assessments (think-pair-share, pre/post, and open-ended), and NGSS support (phenomenon, rubrics, etc.). The investigations are designed for novice learners from advanced middle school through the introductory college level and cover topics ranging from Hubble's Law to Hazardous Asteroids. This workshop will take a deep dive into an investigation on small bodies of the Solar System that can enhance students’ data analysis and evidence-based reasoning abilities, and their understanding of Kepler’s Laws, Newton’s Laws, gravity, and the formation of the Solar System. Participants will have time to explore this investigation and discuss ideas for successfully integrating it into their classroom.”

More photos from this workshop can be found at https://photos.aas.org/.

Presentation: “Spectrum: Empowering Equitable Excellence

Natasha Latouf (George Mason University; Spectrum) promoting the Spectrum student group at NASA’s HyperWall. Image credit: Natasha Latouf.


Graduate students from George Mason University, including Natasha Latouf, Jeffrey McKaig, Emma Schwartzman, and Jenna Cann, presented "Spectrum: Empowering Equitable Excellence" at AAS 241. See the description of their efforts:

“In Spring 2020, four under-represented astronomy students co-founded Spectrum, a student-created and -led diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) advocacy organization in the George Mason University Department of Physics & Astronomy. The primary goal of this organization is to drive sustainable change to improve transparency and DEIA within the fields of physics and astronomy, starting within our home department. Spectrum provided a peer mentor service to the student body, in addition to hosting biweekly professional development talks (PDTs) and less frequent social events, for over 2 years. Each initiative focuses on retention and development of a diverse student body by fostering an academic and social sense of belonging. Our mentors help new students to become more confident in their studies and create a sense of community for URMs who may otherwise feel alienated.”

More information and resources can be found on the Spectrum website.

The AAS is proud to support the EPD Mini-Grant program as part of its commitment to improving effectiveness and equity in astronomy education laid out in its 2016 Task Force Report on Astronomy Education, its 2018 Task Force Report on Diversity and Equity in Graduate Astronomy Education, and its 2021–2026 Strategic Plan. These efforts are overseen by the volunteers of the AAS Education Committee as well as AAS’s Education and Mentoring Specialist Tom Rice.

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