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Sharing the Universe Background

“As amateurs, we are a highly committed group, willing to serve society as informal educators. But, there is a real need for [additional support] to help us in our endeavors.”
— Amateur Astronomer, Lakewood, CO

“We are looking for not only resources, but guidelines on how best to bring astronomy to the public, how to vary programs to reach people of all ages and backgrounds, how to provide non-threatening training to our astronomers, and how best to spread the excitement and discovery that is science and astronomy.”
— Amateur Astronomer, North Houston Astronomy Club, Houston, TX

Sharing the Universe is an ASP project funded by the National Science Foundation‘s Informal Science Education division that is based on the fact that many amateur astronomers (often as members of astronomy clubs) regularly volunteer their time to share their knowledge, passion, and enjoyment of the sky. These education and public outreach (EPO) activities take place in a number of settings, such as visiting a classroom or providing “star parties” for the public under the night sky with audiences of all ages. But even the most enthusiastic and energetic amateur can encounter difficulty when trying to establish or invigorate EPO initiatives in his or her astronomy club. Comments and questions that are not uncommon include:

I can’t get enough people from my club to help!

How do I recruit and train members to be interested in doing outreach, so they can find out how much fun it is!?

I love doing this, but I’m not sure how best to relate to families with young children.

To tackle these and similar issues and generate some innovative solutions, the ASP will be working in close collaboration with numerous members of the amateur astronomy community and the Institute for Learning Innovation to explore how some amateur astronomy clubs successfully develop and maintain EPO initiatives (e.g., see the Night Sky Network) and what “best practices” might be transferable to other clubs or amateurs that may be struggling with EPO. We will also thoroughly investigate and test nsew methods of support in order to offer a variety of field-tested solutions to the types of problems many amateurs interested in EPO are encountering and asking about.

The overall intended impacts of Sharing the Universe are to help amateurs find ways to improve the quality and effectiveness of their EPO activities and create to the extent possible a more connected and active “network” of EPO-engaged astronomy clubs nationwide. We will also communicate what we discover with other hobbyist groups (e.g., bird-watching organizations, gemology clubs, etc.) so that those also interested in enhancing EPO can learn more about and make use of our experiences with Sharing the Universe.

For More Information

If you have questions about Sharing the Universe, or would like to find out how you or your astronomy club might get involved, please send us an email at stu {at} astrosociety.org.


National Science Foundation logoSharing the Universe is based upon work supported by the Informal Education Division of the National Science Foundation under award number 0638873. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation