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Project ASTRO: Expansion Sites and Lead Institutions

Project ASTRO offers an example solution to the classic problem of scaling up, in this case from a small, relatively localized pilot project to a large and geographically extended national project. With a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Project ASTRO has spread from its California pilot sites and San Francisco national office to five expansion sites, each of which is under the direction of a lead institution {Details, Results of Original Pilot Project}.

Scaling up Model. Project ASTRO developed its model for scaling up by reviewing the experience of other successful projects: GEMS, at the Lawrence Hall of Science; Youth-Alive, developed by the Association of Science and Technology Centers; the Urban Mathematics Collaboratives, developed by the Education Development Center; Girls at the Center, developed by the Franklin Institute; and Operation SMART, developed by Girls, Inc.

To Become a Lead Institution. Lead institutions, which are selected by application to the national Project ASTRO office, must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a science center, planetarium, observatory, college, university, research institution, school district, amateur astronomy club, or other organization related to science or astronomy education.
  • Demonstrate a commitment to continue the local Project ASTRO beyond the initial start-up funding and to work closely with other local astronomy and education organizations.

Additional information about becoming a lead institution can be obtained from the Project ASTRO Website.

Responsibilities of Lead Institutions. Each lead institution runs the Project ASTRO program in its area. In this connection, it must do the following:

  • Develop and coordinate a Project ASTRO in the area.
  • Recruit and select teachers in schools and community organizations, based on an application process developed by the national Project ASTRO office.
  • Recruit professional astronomers and astronomy educators and amateur astronomers.
  • Match teachers and astronomers to form partnerships.
  • Conduct two-day workshops, with initial support from the national Project ASTRO staff, to train partnerships on inquiry-based teaching and developing successful partnerships. Integral parts of this training are the ASTRO-produced materials.
  • Support the activities of the partners and coordinate follow-up activities for all the partners during the school year.
  • Collaborate with other local astronomy and science education organizations.
  • Network with other Project ASTRO sites.
  • Develop a strategy to make the local project self-sustaining beyond the end of National Science Foundation funding, which ends in [need year].

Support from National Project ASTRO Office. Each lead institution receives a variety of support from the national office:

  • Start-up funds based on the expected size of the program.
  • Project ASTRO materials for astronomers and teachers during each funded year.
  • Help in conducting the first workshop for teacher-astronomer partnerships.
  • Program guidance, templates for materials, and other ongoing assistance and support.
  • Membership in the growing network of Project ASTRO sites, including support to send local staff to annual leadership meetings.

Benefits to Lead Institutions. Every kind of lead institution will derive benefits from their sponsorship of a Project ASTRO site. Some of the following have been apparent:

  • Science centers and planetaria canl increase their education outreach to schools and the community, build new audiences, and create connections with professional and amateur astronomers.
  • School districts and community organizations can make connections with professional and amateur astronomers, increase their teachers' comfort, knowledge, and skill teaching astronomy and science, and bring role models and mentors into direct contact with students.
  • Amateur astronomers and astronomy clubs can develop educational outreach activities, establish links with research astronomers, and attract new audiences to club events.
  • University astronomy departments and research centers can help graduate students and faculty learn effective teaching strategies, increase career options for graduate students and post-docs, and demonstrate outreach efforts and public service to administrators and funding agencies

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