How does the universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone?
NASA’s Universe of Learning is guided by NASA’s big questions for astrophysics and the needs of our audiences in the development of every product and program. The project stems from a unique partnership between leading scientific organizations that are home to missions and subject matter experts spanning the full range of NASA Astrophysics scientific research. Through this partnership, the NASA’s Universe of Learning team is able to uniquely engage youth, families, and lifelong learners in the science, the story, and the adventure of NASA’s scientific explorations of the universe.
NASA’s Universe of Learning draws from discoveries, scientific data, and subject matter experts from across NASA’s Physics of the Cosmos, Cosmic Origins, and Exoplanet Exploration themes to create and disseminate STEM learning products, programs and professional development experiences that empower audiences to discover the universe for themselves. Our initiatives have all been developed with the goal of advancing the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s STEM Activation objectives on a national scale:
- Enable STEM education
- Improve U.S. scientific literacy
- Advance national education goals
- Leverage efforts through partnerships
Our team carries out a wide range of activities. Over the lifetime of the program, we will:
- Develop tools and participatory experiences that enable learners to explore NASA Astrophysics mission data
- Create multimedia and immersive experiences from the data collected by NASA Astrophysics observatories
- Design and implement exhibits and community programs to bring NASA Astrophysics to diverse audiences
- Provide professional development using NASA Astrophysics for pre-service educators, undergraduate instructors, and informal educators
- Produce resources for all learners including diverse audiences and special needs
- Rigorously evaluate our work to ensure we are creating inspiring, high-quality programming for our audiences.
The NASA’s Universe of Learning program, funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, is a unique partnership between:
- Space Telescope Science Institute
- Jet Propulsion Laboratory
- Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory
- Sonoma State University
- Association of Science-Technology Centers
- McAuliffe Center / Framingham State University
- National Girls Collaborative Project
- National Science Olympiad
- Project PANOPTES
- Rutgers University
- SAO Science Education Department
- Smithsonian Affiliations
- Smithsonian Center for Learning and Digital Access
- Space Science Institute
- University of Arizona Center for Astronomy Education
- University of Texas-San Antonio College of Education
NASA Astrophysics is defined by fundamental questions about our universe and ourselves, organized under three themes:
How does the universe work?
Investigate the origin and destiny of our universe, including the nature of black holes, dark energy, dark matter, and gravity.
How did we get here?
Explore the origin and evolution of galaxies, stars, and planets.
Are we alone?
Discover and study planets around other stars, and explore whether they could harbor life.
Visit NASA Astrophysics to get an overview of these programs.
Integrating NASA Astrophysics into Audience-Driven Programs
A Direct Connection to Science
Learners have access to guided interactions with data from across the spectrum of NASA Astrophysics missions, presented in accurate, Hollywood-quality immersive experiences.
Addressing Audience Needs
We work with external evaluators and our audience members to conduct needs assessments and effectively identify and address audience needs.
Engaging Subject Matter Experts
The partnership between NASA’s Universe of Learning and subject matter experts provides a direct connection to the science that is part of every program, product, and professional development experience. Subject matter experts are involved in a variety of ways, such as in-person guidance at a Girls STEAM Ahead with NASA event, or distance learning with the Science Briefings. The SMEs below participated in the monthly science briefings; their science briefings are linked in their captions.
Utilizing Scientist–Educator Partnerships
Scientists and educators work side-by-side to identify the aspects of astrophysics discoveries most relevant to STEM education and public understanding of science. Together they translate the content into resources and opportunities that respond to the needs of educators, youth, and life-long learners.
Exploring Emerging Technologies
We continually apply the most innovative technology to meet the needs of diverse learners in 21st century learning environments.
Employing Rigorous Evaluation
Utilizing external evaluators, the Universe of Learning evaluation includes:
- Needs assessments
- Educational field-testing and observation
- Feedback via surveys and interviews
- Monitoring usage trends
- Impact studies
Sharing the story, the science, and the adventure of NASA's scientific explorations of the universe
NASA Science Activation
As a member of the NASA Science Activation Team, the NASA’s Universe of Learning project is funded by and contributes to the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s broader goal of enabling NASA science experts and content into informal learning environments more effectively and efficiently, with learners of all ages. This includes collaborating with NASA subject matter experts to integrate compelling content from across NASA Astrophysics in innovative learning experiences. Providing direct access to this expertise enhances NASA’s ability to support national and local goals to improve learning and literacy in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.
The Science Mission Directorate is focused on the scientific exploration of the Earth, Sun, Solar System, and universe beyond that is enabled by access to space. The SMD gathers input from the scientific community to chart the best route for discovery, and it reaps the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society.