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Project Information

Project Information


Assessing the NASA Science Activation Program


Project Scope:

An ad hoc committee will assess the SMD's Science Activation (SciAct) program's efforts towards meeting the following objectives: (1) enable STEM education, (2) improve U.S. scientific literacy,(3) advance national education goals, and (4) leverage efforts through partnerships. The review will provide an independent, authoritative forum for identifying and discussing SciAct issues in Earth and Space Science related to NASA SMD's SciAct program and will include the following: 

Concise written assessment of the status of the SMD Science Activation program including feedback on improving the program. The assessment will be based on evidence gathered by the committee at its in-person and virtual meetings and on established principles for evidence-based science education as summarized in previous reports from the Board on Science Education. The committee's assessment final report may include findings and conclusions related to management of and priorities for the next phase of the program, including the identification of any gaps in the SciAct approach, given new advances in science education pedagogy and recent Decadal recommendations. The assessment will be subject to review in accordance with NASEM's institutional policies.



Status: Current

PIN: DBASSE-BOSE-17-02

Project Duration (months): 12 month(s)

RSO: Schweingruber, Heidi



Geographic Focus:

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 08/05/2019

Margaret A. Honey - (Chair)
MARGARET A. HONEY (CHAIR) is the CEO and president of the New York Hall of Science. Among her current interests at NYSCI is the role of design-based learning in promoting student interest and achievement in STEM subjects. She is widely recognized for her work using digital technologies to support children’s learning across the disciplines of science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Prior to joining NYSCI, she spent 15 years as vice president of the Education Development Center (EDC) and director of EDC’s Center for Children and Technology. While at EDC, Dr. Honey was the architect and overseer of numerous large-scale projects funded by organizations including the National Science Foundation, the Institute for Education Sciences, The Carnegie Corporation, The Library of Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Energy. She also co-directed the Northeast and Islands Regional Education Laboratory, which enabled educators, policy-makers, and communities to improve schools by helping them leverage the most current research about learning and K-12 education. Dr. Honey has shared what she’s learned before Congress, state legislatures, and federal panels, and through numerous articles, chapters and books. She formerly served as a board member of the National Academies’ Board on Science Education and currently serves as a member of the Division Committee for the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. On behalf of the National Research Council she has chaired the workshop report on IT Fluency and High School Graduation Outcomes, and co-authored a report on Learning Science: Computer Games, Simulations, and Education. Her recent book, Design, Make, Play – Growing the Next Generation of STEM Innovators, explores the potential of these strategies for supporting student engagement and deeper learning. Dr. Honey received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Columbia University.
Neta A. Bahcall
NETA A. BAHCALL is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Astrophysics at Princeton University. She is director of the Undergraduate Program in Astrophysics and past director of the Council on Science and Technology of Princeton University. Dr. Bahcall's work focuses on addressing questions such as: What is the large-scale structure of our Universe? How did structure form and evolve? How much dark matter exists in the Universe and where is it located? What is the nature of the mysterious dark energy? What is the fate of our Universe - will it expand forever or recollapse? Bahcall uses different methods and a variety of tracers to answer these questions, including galaxies, clusters of galaxies, superclusters, and quasars. She combines observational data from large-scale surveys (such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and others) and other observations to determine the structure in the universe and its properties and compare it with those expected from cosmological simulations. Dr. Bahcall and colleagues' determination of properties such as the cluster correlation function, the cluster mass function and its evolution, the mass-to-light function from galaxies to superclusters, the geometrical shape of clusters and of large-scale structure have provided powerful constraints on cosmology including one of the first determinations of the mass-density of the universe and the amplitude of mass-fluctuations. Bahcall works closely with students and postdoctoral fellows; their work is summarized in over 300 scientific publications. Dr. Bahcall is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, chair of Astronomy Section of the National Academy of Sciences, distinguished research chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, recipient of the A. de Vaucouleurs Medal, the Payne-Gasposkin Award, an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree - OSU, editorial board member of PNAS, past vice-president and Councilor of the American Astronomical Society, Century Lecturer of the AAS, and served as chair and member of various NASA, NSF, NAS, and Congressional committee. She received her Ph.D. from Tel-Aviv University, working in Nuclear Astrophysics.
Bronwyn Bevan
BRONWYN BEVAN is seniorrResearch scientist at the University of Washington. Her research examines how science learning can be organized to empower individuals and communities. She is the principal investigator of the NSF-funded Research+Practice Collaboratory, the One Sky Institute, and several other federally and privately funded projects. For over two decades, she worked at the Exploratorium, in San Francisco, where she led the teaching and learning, and research on learning programs. She served on the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Out-of-School Time STEM Learning and is on the editorial board of Science Education. Dr. Bevan holds her Ph.D. in Urban Education from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center and received her B.A. in History from Barnarde College.
Wendy Gram
WENDY GRAM has worked at the interface of science and education for over 25 years, publishing in both the scientific research and science learning literature. She is passionate about science, data and learning, and committed to engaging diverse audiences in "doing science." As lead for Science Engagement and Education for the NSF-funded National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) for ten years, Dr. Gram led development, implementation, and evaluation of education and engagement programs and tools to enable the scientific community to effectively discover, access and use NEON data and resources. As director of Science and Education at NEON, Dr. Gram also led a team of 60 scientists, technicians, educators, graphic designers, and outreach specialists that executed NEON Science and Engagement activities. Before joining NEON in 2008, Dr. Gram spent nine years as head of education at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma. There, she was a member of the Senior Leadership Team for the museum and led programs that integrated science with educational programming, such as innovative teacher professional development workshops, field courses, K-12 classes, and exhibit development. Dr. Gram holds a B.A. in biology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from the University of Missouri.
Rogers Hall
ROGERS HALL is professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Vanderbilt University. His research concerns learning and teaching in STEM conceptual practices, comparative studies of embodied action in these practices, and the organization and development of representational practices more generally. Before joining the Vanderbilt faculty, where he served as chair of the Department of Teaching and Learning between 2011 and 2017, Dr. Hall taught for ten years at UC Berkeley. Dr. Hall is a fellow of the American Educational Research Association and has been a residential fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Sciences (Stanford University, 2007-2008), the UC Humanities Research Institute (2001), and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (1999). He has also been a NAE/Spencer Foundation and McDonnell foundation postdoctoral fellow (1996-1997). Dr. Hall completed his Ph.D. in Information and computer science at the University of California, Irvine.
Abigail Jurist Levy
ABIGAIL JURIST LEVY is the co-director of Education Development Corporation’s (EDC) STEM portfolio and a science researcher whose work seeks to understand the conditions, policies, and programs that enable STEM teachers to do their best work preparing all students for continued STEM learning and careers. Dr. Levy’s work often focuses on the costs and cost-effectiveness of programs and policies relating to science teaching, and she has contributed to the knowledge base about teacher turnover and its cost, the professional development of science teachers, and the impact of an inquiry-based approach to science teaching. During her tenure at EDC, Dr. Levy has studied science fair participation and impact, the cost and cost-effectiveness of different models of elementary science instruction, and how teachers adapt to large-scale curriculum reform. She is a widely published author and has managed several multi-year research and evaluation studies funded by the National Science Foundation. Dr. Levy holds a Ph.D. in family and children policy from the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University.
Cathryn A. Manduca
CATHRYN A. MANDUCA has nearly two decades of experience leading national programs to improve geoscience education and undergraduate STEM education. She is the Director of the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College and the Executive Director of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. This work supports communities of educators in learning together and collaborating to create resources supporting widespread improvement. The 30,000+ pages comprising the SERC websites are visited by more than 5 million visitors per year. Dr. Manduca’s research focuses on understanding faculty learning and the impact of professional networks on educational practice. She serves on the Board on Science Education and the LabX Advisory Board for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and has served on the elected leadership for the American Geophysical Union and AAAS Education Section in the past. She is a fellow of the AAAS and Geological Society of America, and past recipient of the American Geophysical Union award for Excellence in Earth and Space Education. She received her B.A. in Geology from Williams College and her Ph.D. in Geology from the California Institute of Technology.
Rafi Santo
RAFI SANTO is a learning scientist focused on the intersection of digital culture, education and institutional change. Centering his work within research-practice partnerships, he has studied, collaborated with and facilitated a range of organizational networks related to digital learning, computing and technology in education. Within informal education, he has focused on organizational change and the design of innovation networks around digital learning, focusing on both regional networks including the Mozilla Hive NYC Learning Network, a collective of 70 informal education organizations, as well as national networks, including the Digital Learning Challenge community supported by the Susan Crown Exchange. In work in K-12 schooling, he’s partnered with CSforAll to support school districts to develop values-driven strategic plans around universal computing education initiatives. His research on Hacker Literacies has appeared in journals including International Journal of Learning and Media and Digital Culture & Education, and he is co-author of a four volume collection on digital making from MIT Press called Interconnections: Understanding Systems through Digital Design. His work has been supported by the Spencer Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Mozilla Foundation and the Susan Crown Exchange. Dr. Santo received his B.A from New York University and his Ph.D. from Indiana University.
Dennis L. Schatz
DENNIS SCHATZ is senior advisor at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. He is also field editor of a journal, Connected Science Learning, which highlights links between in-school and out-of-school learning. The journal is a joint effort of NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) and ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers). He was recently elected to be president of NSTA, which involves a three-year commitment —President-elect in 2018-19; president in 2019-20, retiring president in 2020-21. In addition, he is on the board of Biological Sciences Curriculum Studies’ Science Learning committee and a technical advisor to the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC). A research solar astronomer prior to his career in science education, he worked at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, prior to moving to Seattle in 1977. At Pacific Science Center he has held a broad range of positions from director of the Planetarium in his early years to VP for exhibits and VP for education to Senior VP in more recent years. Over his years at Pacific Science Center, he served as principal investigator for a number of National Science Foundation (NSF) projects, including the Science Center's innovative Community Leadership project that develops science advocates in community-based organizations, and the nationally touring exhibit, Aliens: Worlds of Possibilities, which explores the nature of the solar system and the search for extraterrestrial life in the galaxy. Mr. Schatz earned a B.S. degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a M.S. degree in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley.
Mark R. Showalter
MARK SHOWALTER is a senior research scientist and fellow at the SETI Institute. His research focuses on the dynamics of rings and small moons in the Solar System. Known for his persistence in planetary image analysis, Mark's early work with Voyager data led to the discoveries of Jupiter's faint, outer "gossamer" rings and Saturn's tiny ring-moon, Pan. Starting in 2003, his work with the Hubble Space Telescope led to the discoveries of "Mab" and "Cupid", small moons of Uranus now named after characters from Shakespeare's plays. His work also revealed two faint outer rings of dust encircling the planet. In 2011, Dr. Showalter initiated a Hubble observing program focused on Pluto, which led to the discoveries of two tiny moons. Their names, "Kerberos" and "Styx", were selected through an international naming campaign. Mark also discovered the 14th known moon of Neptune. He is a co-investigator on NASA's Cassini mission to Saturn and its New Horizons mission to Pluto and beyond. In addition to his research, Mark manages the Ring-Moon Systems Node of NASA's Planetary Data System. The site provides public access to images and other data from NASA's Voyager, Galileo, Cassini and New Horizons missions, from the Hubble Space Telescope, and from a variety of Earth-based telescopes. Dr. Showalter received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Cornell University.
Susan Sullivan
SUSAN SULLIVAN is the director of diversity and inclusion for Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and focused on bringing awareness to the need for science to serve society, to attract diverse talent, and to develop a culture where all involved can thrive. Her formal training is in atmospheric chemistry, while her primary foci as an educator has been in climate change and climate communications. Dr. Sullivan was previously the president of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers(NAGT) and has served as PI for multiple NASA grants and has been the education lead for two mission-based project teams in Earth and in space science. Through her work with NAGT, Dr. Sullivan has helped build the capacity for the Next Generation Science Standards along with her work through the Digital Library for Earth Systems Education. She received her B.S. in chemistry from California Polytechnic State University and her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from University of Colorado, Boulder.
Bryan K. Wallace
BRYAN KENT WALLACE serves as a physics faculty member and is the director of Physics Laboratories at Fisk University. In that capacity, he assumed responsibility for the modernization and instruction in all physics undergraduate laboratories, as well as, laboratory curriculum. Under his supervision, the Physics laboratories have advanced from partial to full computerization of data collection, and received numerous improvements by way of renovation, organization, and utilization of more efficient equipment. Dr. Wallace is currently primary investigator for Fisk University’s Rocket Science Program, entitled Altitude Achievement Missile Team (F.A.A.M.T). This program was built from scratch to compete in a NASA competition known as University Student Launch Initiative, wherein the students design, build, launch and recover a sounding rocket carrying a scientific payload, which must achieve an altitude of exactly one mile. Dr. Wallace studies effective mentorship models for university students in Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers as well as engaging in mentoring programs aimed at building self-efficacy in under-represented populations in K-12. The goal of these efforts is to encouraging them to become full participants in their STEM curriculum and eventually go into STEM related careers. Dr. Wallace holds an Ed.D. in learning organizations and strategic change.
Ming-Ying Wei
MING-YING WEI retired in 2016 from NASA Headquarters after serving more than 20 years as a program manager in the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate. Her portfolio included supporting graduate and early-career research in Earth system science with emphasis on the utilization of space-borne observations and resources, as well as promoting the teaching, learning, and public understanding of Earth and environmental sciences. She has conducted research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and served as a rotator in the Atmospheric Sciences Division at the NSF. Dr. Wei received her Ph.D. in meteorology from the University of Oklahoma.
Julie Yu
JULIE YU is a senior scientist in the Exploratorium Museum’s Teacher Institute, where she works with teachers to create hands-on activities for teaching math and science. Dr. Yu first participated in the Institute as a middle school math and science teacher. In 2006, after completing her research in viruses, stem cells, and how to win at foosball, Dr. Yu returned to the Exploratorium to lead it's efforts to support secondary teachers in effective science instruction. Dr. Yu received her Ph.D. in chemical engineering with a minor in molecular and cell biology from the University of California, Berkeley.
Kenne Dibner - (Staff Officer)
KENNE DIBNER is a senior program officer with the Board on Science Education. She served as the study director for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s consensus study Science Literacy: Concepts, Contexts, and Consequences, as well as the deputy director for Indicators for Monitoring Undergraduate STEM Education. Prior to this position, Dr. Dibner worked as a research associate at Policy Studies Associates, Inc., where she conducted evaluations of education policies and programs for government agencies, foundations, and school districts, including an evaluation of a partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Education to provide citizen science programming to tribal youth. She has also served as a research consultant with the Center on Education Policy and served as a legal intern for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce. She has a B.A in English literature from Skidmore College and a Ph.D. in education policy from Michigan State University.

Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest

Julie Yu and Mark Showalter have colleagues that receive funding from the SciAct program and could be affected by this report, but they do not receive any funding directly from this program.

Dennis Schatz has received funding from the Space Science Institute (a NASA SciAct awardee), but has not been directly funded by NASA.

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