CHAPTER 6

Education

Educational activities to be planned under the National Space Weather Program (NSWP) include those aimed at grade school children, college students, users of space environment data, forecasters, and the general public. In this chapter we discuss the educational activities as they pertain to the different target groups.

6.1 Formal Education

Given children's tremendous interest in space, space weather forecasting is certain to be exciting and appealing to a broad spectrum of students. The NSWP will develop efforts that will use this natural interest in space to further national science and mathematics education goals. Those goals, as enunciated in documents such as Benchmarks for Science Literacy (developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science), National Science Education Standards (developed by the National Academy of Sciences), and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards, stress the need for students to acquire what are generally referred to as "process skills." These include the ability to observe and measure, to manipulate those data in meaningful, quantitative ways, to draw conclusions from such investigations, and to communicate those conclusions to others effectively. These are skills needed by all members of our society, and a central element in the current wave of reform is "science for all." Furthermore, the aforementioned documents call for closely tying science to technological and social issues so that students can see the relevance of science in their lives. The NSWP will contribute to achieving these goals by supporting both formal and informal science education.

The interest students have in space will mean that the materials and programs to support formal science education in schools developed as part of the NWSP will have widespread impact. One possibility of improved formal studies is to develop a small number of instructional modules on problems related to space weather, for example, flares, coronal mass ejections (CMEs), the solar wind, geomagnetic storms, and the effect of solar activity on Earth's climate. These modules should be designed to be easily incorporated into existing courses, and should strive to teach science to a general college audience by exposing them to the field's current research. The module on geomagnetic storms, for instance, might be incorporated into an Earth sciences course that explores the near-Earth space environment. Such a module could be designed to demonstrate the importance of the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupling by briefly exploring current magnetospheric modeling efforts and showing how critically the models depend on the way magnetospheric currents enclose the ionosphere.

An example of the manner in which research and education can be integrated is the involvement of students in auroral observations. Using visual scanning and some recording photometers, the students would report on their auroral observations and would analyze the photometer data and send it back to a central site. Similarly, schools could be provided with digital magnetometers for measuring the magnetic field. Students would be instructed on methods to analyze the data for waves and variations and send the data to a central site for archiving.

6.2 Informal Education

In addition to formal science education, informal education will play an important role in the NSWP. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and other Federal agencies stress that to foster a scientifically literate citizenry, science education needs to extend beyond formal education into centers of informal learning such as museums and science centers. These institutions need to reach people of all ages, interests, and backgrounds. Museum programs and interactive exhibits on space weather themes will be developed in close collaboration with the science museum community, including forging a long-term relationship with the Association of Science-Technology Centers.

6.3 Educational Programs for Space Scientists

Simultaneously, programs will be developed to provide space scientists with the latest information concerning science education and to train interested space scientists to work effectively with students, teachers, and science museums. Efforts by Dr. Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, and others have shown that the informed participation of scientists can contribute significantly to science education reform. Thus the educational programs and materials developed by the NSWP will be informed by the best current thinking in science education. Within the American Geophysical Union, the Space Physics and Aeronomy section's Education and Public Information Committees have both resolved to mobilize the space physics community in support of education efforts tied to the NSWP.

6.4 Educational Programs for Operations Personnel and Space Weather Customers

Education in space weather has historically focused on increasing and spreading knowledge within the scientific community, but less on educating users, operators, and other customers of systems that are affected by space weather. Better balance in this area is necessary to meet the NSWP goals, which can only be accomplished with advocacy and stated needs from educated users, operators, and policy-makers from the private, non-Department of Defense (DoD) government, and military communities.

DoD has a variety of programs to train space weather analysts, forecasters, officers, and advanced-degree officers. Advanced courses are provided to personnel assigned duty directly related to space weather observing and forecasting. All newly commissioned Air Force weather officers receive introductory space weather training, and some officers are selected each year to attend graduate space weather programs. Space weather training is also being added to airman and noncommissioned officer weather skill courses that have traditionally focused on terrestrial weather, adding significantly to the number of military personnel with space weather knowledge.

Training is also being provided to DoD operators (including those who "drive and track satellites") and to multiple other agencies (customers) conducting operations affected by space weather. Briefings are provided to senior military leadership on the impacts of space weather, and space weather fundamentals and impacts are being added to space operator, space tactics, and other formal military courses.

At the Space Environment Center (SEC) formal training courses are provided for personnel assigned as space weather analysts and forecasters. In addition, the synergy between the co-located operational analysts/forecasters and the scientists of the SEC Research and Development Division affords a unique opportunity. Research staff provide analysts and forecasters with improved understanding of the applicable physics, especially when new or unusual conditions are identified in the space environment, and in return, operations staff offer insights to the scientists on the practical applications of space weather science.

Civilian customers of space weather information require education, often at short intervals, because of constant turnover of industrial staff. On the other hand, some customers are more knowledgeable about the space weather effects on their own systems because of their life-long involvement. This inhomogenous mix of customers makes the civilian user education process a multitiered problem, one that needs immediate and constant attention.

Along with the recent growth in attention to space weather in the popular literature, many citizen groups, school classes, and science fair aspirants have shown an interest in the field, all of which clearly serve the NSWP. Although the training of analysts/forecasters and the expansion of knowledge through research are fundamental to the program, reaching other audiences (to gain advocacy, funding, and requirements) remains the crucial and next step to success.

Table of Contents

Chapter 5

Chapter 7