In recent years, an education plan has been a required part of most proposals for new scientific research funding from NASA. Likewise, the National Science Foundation considers “integration of research and education” as one of its principal strategies. As a result, many scientists are seeking effective ways to incorporate education into their work. This article shares important lessons learned by one group of scientists embarking on outreach efforts. Experience with the Students' Cloud Observations On-line (S'COOL) Project, the educational outreach portion of the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) investigation, yields lessons that may help other scientists to develop useful outreach efforts.
CERES scientists developed S'COOL over a 15-month period, with direct involvement and feedback from teachers. S'COOL has continued to evolve, thanks to ongoing feedback from participants. As a result, the project has been quite successful, currently involving over 1400 registered participants in 61 countries around the world. Student reports of cloud conditions help scientists verify their cloud property retrieval algorithms and allow students to obtain and analyze real scientific data. A number of educational materials, including an extensive multilingual Web site, have been developed to help teachers and students understand the research questions and the challenges of working with global remote-sensing datasets.
Radiation and Aerosols Branch, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
Science Applications International Corporation, Hampton, Virginia
Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas