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Can You Name a Living Scientist?

In 2009, Americans were surveyed and asked to name a living scientist. An astonishing 65% couldn’t think of anyone at all. Another 18% tried and got it wrong, naming a non-scientist or a scientist no longer alive. That’s 83% who didn’t know a living scientist by name.

This should be frightening to anyone concerned about the state of science education. Scientific advancements and discoveries directly impact our lives and our environment every day. We should know the names of the people attached to all this activity and influence. We should also remember that each person behind each experiment, exploration and endeavor was originally inspired – somewhere, sometime – by a teacher.

Scientist with kids in classroom

This is where the ASP and donors like you make a difference. Through programs like Astronomy Ambassadors, the ASP provides education outreach training to early career astronomers and helps them connect with local students. We bring enthusiastic, young scientists into the classroom to serve as powerful role models and use the exciting subject of astronomy to sow the seeds of curiosity, critical thinking, math literacy, and problem solving – all necessary tools for the next generation of science literate leaders. Dr. Elizabeth Young, who recently participated in Astronomy Ambassadors, describes her experience:

“I presented at an inner-city Title 1 school, and am setting up an ongoing visit with the second-grade class through … Teach for America. I find it weird to talk to young students who grow up with Pluto being a dwarf planet. They don’t have the same kind of connection that anyone over about 15 years old has to Pluto. I … like the creativity students of all ages have when they ponder what exoplanets and life could be like. Lots of fascinating stories. I hope the students grow up to study the planet of their dreams, whether through analyzing scientific data, building the instruments for the telescopes, writing news articles about the discoveries, or simply telling their friends about how a planet they once hypothesized has been found.”

The ASP began designing and delivering teacher professional development initiatives more than 20 years ago – and NASA, NSF, and other leading science agencies have recognized the ASP’s programs for educators as exemplars. Astronomy Ambassadors provides new astronomers with a unique, intensive, and collaborative experience – drawing on the ASP’s education expertise, resources, and investigations that provide inspirational, and often life-changing, learning opportunities for students. Not only do they learn about astronomy from young scientists currently doing real research, but these scientists become more effective teachers through their interactions with students.

When training Astronomy Ambassadors, the ASP de-emphasizes the traditional “teacher-centered” lecture approach in favor of actively engaging children in hands-on astronomy exercises that develop critical thinking skills. We help young astronomers see themselves as facilitators of learning, and not as a “sage on stage.” As Elizabeth discovered:

“The AA program gave me the confidence as a classroom educator…It isn’t about your performance abilities, it is about what the students are actively doing and learning. Focusing on the students takes a lot of pressure off of me and gives me more confidence to teach.”

Won’t you please help the ASP help young astronomy educators everywhere successfully share their science knowledge and inspire learners young and old? Please make your gift today easily and securely online via www.astrosociety.org/donate.