In March of 2016, a total solar eclipse will occur in the southwestern pacific; and in August of 2017, a total solar eclipse will occur across a broad swath of the United States.
The Exploratorium proposes to launch a 2.5 year public education program—Navigating the Path of Totality—that will use these two upcoming total solar eclipses as platforms for sparking public engagement and learning about the Sun, heliophysics, and the STEM content related to both. These sequential eclipses provide an unprecedented opportunity to build and scaffold public engagement and education. Our strategy is to start the public engagement process with the 2016 eclipse, nurture that engagement with resources, activities and outreach during the 17 months between the eclipses, so that audiences (especially in the U.S., where totality will be visible in multiple areas across the country) will be excited, actively interested, and prepared for deeper engagement during the 2017 eclipse.
The Exploratorium proposes to work with NASA to leverage what will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for millions and bring heliophysics information and research to students, educators, and the public at large through a variety of learning experiences and platforms. At the core of this project are live broadcasts/webcasts of each eclipse. These broadcasts/webcasts provide the backbone upon which complementary educational resources and activities can be built and delivered. As a freely available resource, the broadcasts/webcasts also provide the baseline content for hundreds if not thousands of educational efforts provided by other science-rich institutions, schools, community-based organizations, and venues. Exploratorium-produced live broadcasts of celestial events have been used this way for over 17 years. Platforms such as NASA TV and Discovery Channel online, media outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and ABC, as well as hundreds of science institutions and thousands of classrooms have streamed Exploratorium eclipse broadcasts as part of their own educational programming. These live broadcasts have become relied upon educational infrastructure during total solar eclipses for institutions and individuals alike.
What does your team hope to achieve?
The intent of Navigating the Path of Totality is to take advantage of two such opportunities: the Total Solar Eclipse in 2016, viewable from Woleai Atoll in the Federated States of Micronesia; and the total solar eclipse in 2017, viewable across the contiguous United States. The Exploratorium proposes to produce and disseminate crucial foundational educational programming for each eclipse, most notably high quality live broadcasts/webcasts of the event itself as it unfolds in real time, coupled with expert commentary. These broadcasts can be used to powerfully engage learners with STEM concepts in a range of educational contexts: informal settings (science museums and centers, aquaria, zoos, libraries, afterschool settings, and planetariums), formal settings (K-12 and post-secondary classrooms), and individual settings through broadcast news, and online experiences such as mobile and social media (Facebook, YouTube, Vine, and Instagram, for example).
"Inquiry is the [set] of behaviors involved in the struggle of human beings for reasonable explanations of phenomena about which they are curious." - Novak, 1964