The Field Investigations to Enable Solar System Science and Exploration (FINESSE) team of NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) conducts science and exploration field-based research to prepare for human and robotic exploration of the Moon, near-Earth asteroids, and the martian moons Phobos and Deimos.
FINESSE Spaceward Bound engages teachers and students in authentic science research experiences, in the field with the FINESSE science team. Through a partnership with the Idaho Space Grant Consortium, we bring students and teachers into the field to conduct science and exploration research in Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve with the FINESSE science team. They work side-by-side with NASA researchers, hiking with them through lava flows, operating field instruments, collecting data, and participating in science discussions. Support from the FINESSE team continues after teachers return to their classrooms, through activities and resources we recommend, opportunities for continued engagement that we suggest, and individual connections the teachers maintain, as well as the FINESSE-related projects and programs they produce and share.
In 2015 five K–12 teachers (including one of two 2014 alumni) participated in the program, alongside 31 scientists. All five teachers will return in 2016, joined by two to three additional teachers.
The Idaho Space Grant Consortium led a detailed evaluation of the 2015 program, individually interviewing of all 2015 teacher participants six months after the field excursion. Their feedback shows the impact of this program extends well beyond the classroom. The teachers also give specific recommendations that will help the FINESSE team prepare for the 2016 FINESSE Spaceward Bound program, and offer advice for future teacher participants.
Example observations from the 2015 program evaluation include that advance preparation of teachers by the science team is essential for success in the field, that off-hours interactions make teachers feel like part of the science team, and that teachers strongly prefer to be involved in the program for multiple years. Teacher recommendations for the science team include requests to ease the initial deluge of information and to keep them informed of progress in the research they helped support.
We will provide additional evaluation results of the 2015 FINESSE Spaceward Bound program, and will highlight examples of products and programs developed by the teachers through which they are sharing their experience with their students, their colleagues, and their communities.