Astronomy Activation Ambassadors

Providing professional development for teachers to enhance student STEM engagement.

Teacher wearing blue NASA jacket in lab classroom with two students
AAA teacher in the classroom with students after professional development & STEM immersion

Team Mission

The Astronomy Activation Ambassadors (AAA) program (formerly Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors) aims to measurably enhance student science learning and STEM engagement in selected schools, districts, and colleges via professional development (PD) for teachers and implementation of a standards-based electromagnetic spectrum & multi-wavelength astronomy curriculum module in middle school, high school, and community college classrooms. The AAA participant PD consists of:

  1. STEM content webinars;
  2. asynchronous online astrophysics & planetary science course;
  3. in-person training for classroom curriculum implementation;
  4. STEM immersion experiences at astronomy research and public outreach facilities;
  5. a Community of Practice fostering reflection on program experiences plus continued connections with NASA (and other) SMEs.

The Astronomy Activation Ambassadors (AAA) program gives teachers a unique opportunity to interact with multiple facets of NASA’s science mission. Not only are these teachers witnessing scientific research first-hand, they're seeing the wide range of professional and technical expertise needed to support that research, from engineering to technology to mathematics. This program inspires teachers with the excitement of frontier science, and shows students the multitude of career paths possible within NASA.

D. Backman

D. Backman

Principal Investigator

Science Focus

Astrophysics, Planetary Science


  1. Middle school, high school, and community college astronomy and/or physical science teachers;
  2. Students of teacher participants.

What does your team hope to achieve?

Impact on student STEM learning & engagement was assessed by WestEd in 2017-18 via a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). The final RCT report is available here:

Data available from the RCT included:

  1. Assessment of student content learning in relation to the California Science Framework and Next Generation Science Standards;
  2. Assessment of student interest in STEM, STEM learning, STEM majors, and STEM careers;
  3. Teacher logs regarding curriculum implementation.

Items 2 & 3 continue to be evaluated by WestEd. Student outcomes were measured in the 2019-2020 and 2020-21 academic years without an RCT; positive effects were consistent in size and significance with the 2017-18 RCT findings.

Project Web Site

11 people, 6 wearing blue NASA jackets, in room with multiple large display monitors
AAA teachers & staff plus observatory personnel in telescope control room