Astrobiology Curriculum Pilot Kicks-Off Maine STEM Initiative
The pilot-test of a NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI)-supported curriculum entitled Astrobiology: An Integrated Science Approach helped kick-off the State of Maine’s new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Initiative. This initiative was the subject of a press conference given this week by Maine’s Governor, The Honorable John E. Baldacci.
The curriculum was developed with significant input from the NAI Team at NASA Ames Research Center led by Dave Des Marais, who spoke at the press conference. Much of the team’s research in astrobiology is captured in the curriculum.
Providing ninth grade students an interdisciplinary approach to science, this year-long, integrated curriculum covers the broad range of topics encompassed by astrobiology—cosmic and planetary evolution, the origin and evolution of life on Earth, and the potential for habitable worlds elsewhere in the Universe—within the context of science as inquiry.
This project has been a collaborative effort from the start. The curriculum was developed by TERC, an educational non-profit based in Cambridge, MA, with major support from NSF, and additional funds from NAI. Specialists from the Maine Space Grant Consortium and the University of Maine will evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum in a sample of ten Maine schools. Co-funded by NAI and Lockheed Martin, the pilot evaluation plan will ask if a reform curriculum such as Astrobiology: An Integrated Science Approach engages students, improves their attitudes towards science in general, and promotes their consideration of STEM careers. The evaluation will compare attitudes and interests of students who have been exposed to the curriculum versus those in non-integrated science courses.