NASA’s Universe of Learning is a branch of NASA’s educational network that shares resources, programs, and data with the public to further STEM education. Through this network, IMAS was awarded a grant to provide Universe of Learning training for college students who work with the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen. Through these training sessions, participants learned how to navigate the Universe of Learning portal and discover new creative ways of teaching space science through hands-on engagement and learning. These efforts encouraged young educators to instill passion and curiosity and inspire the children they work with to learn about the wonders of the universe.

The grant supported a spring break camp at the Boys and Girls Club of McAllen Othal E. Brand center for students ages 5 to 12. STEM activities encouraged deeper thinking about our sun, the solar system and other deep space objects such as black holes and galaxies. IMAS educators assisted with daily student activities including exploring the cosmos in the StarLab planetarium.

Students tried freeze-dried fruit like real astronauts, explored the power of gravity by creating mini gravity wells, built and launched rockets, gained access to handheld telescopes, and mimicked the death of a star into a blackhole with balloons and foil with the support of this grant, creating lasting memories and igniting excitement to continue STEM education and space science.

“With IMAS bringing NASA astrophysics learning to our Boys & Girls Club members during Spring Break Camp we will create access to STEM opportunities to our kids in a fun and engaging way! NASA has always looked to the future and our community kids are the future!” -Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar

About the Informal Learning Network

The Informal Learning Network, a collaboration of museums and cultural institutions affiliated with the Smithsonian and the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), is excited to announce that, on April 1st, 2022, it selected 21 of these museums from across the country to help expand support for communities traditionally underserved in STEM and STEAM programming. These selected organizations are spearheading collaborations within their communities and building regional networks that help to increase access to NASA’s Universe of Learning resources. This wide variety of collaborations includes projects such as: the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, which is supporting 11-18 year old girls as they not only explore deep space, but share their new knowledge with broader audiences through a collaboration with local Girl Scout councils; the South Dakota Discovery Center is developing education kits that integrate Indigenous and Western Science by working with educators from a nearby Indian reservation and faculty and students from a local university to create culturally sustaining science education content; and the Explora Science Center & Children’s Museum of Albuquerque is expanding NASA space-themed curriculum to better align with strategies for supporting English Language Learners. Many sites are also part of the NASA Informal Science Education Network (NISENet) and will be able to leverage both programs to serve their audiences.

The Informal Learning Network is one of the activities NASA’s Universe of Learning conducts to cultivate connections among a broad set of museums, cultural organizations, and other informal learning settings to foster their development of community partnerships. Through this co-creation and inclusion of broader perspectives, the network hopes to achieve impactful astrophysics programming that is innovative, inclusive, accessible, and relevant to broader audiences. Educators engaged in the Informal Learning Network report an increase in their skills for facilitating authentic NASA data experiences and feel they gain enough science content knowledge to design a program for their audiences using NASA’s Universe of Learning content/resources.

Learn more about NASA Universe of Learning’s Informal Learning Network:

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