Over the past 17 years, 21 astronomers and about 75 teachers have partnered with Native American reservations in Arizona and New Mexico to engage students in historically underserved and culturally isolated schools in astronomy. In 2014, Deidre Hunter, astronomer at Lowell Observatory and program founder, won the 2014 American Astronomical Society’s Education Prize for the nationwide renown of the program.
The goals of the Lowell Observatory Navajo-Hopi Astronomy Outreach Program are twofold:
The program pairs astronomers with teachers for one year. Each astronomer visits each partner teacher’s classroom many times throughout the year, leading astronomy discussions and hands-on activities in collaboration with the teacher. The program also features nighttime “star parties,” with astronomers, amateur astronomers, teachers, parents, families and community members—an excellent way to foster parent and community engagement in education. The year-long partnership culminates in a field trip to Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ, during which students visit the Steele Visitor Center during the day and observe the skies on research telescopes at the active research facility at night.
The program honors the cultures, heritages and learning styles of the Navajo and Hopi students. Astronomers work with tribal educators to incorporate a rich history of astronomical observations, astronomical knowledge, and native language and stories about astronomic objects. For example, students learn about the daily, monthly and yearly cycles of the sun and the moon from Hopi tradition and about the movements of Navajo constellations.
The program supports partner teachers with personalized training, classroom curricula materials and workshops at the Lowell Observatory. Partner teachers serve as resources for other teachers in their schools to broaden the impact of the program.
The programs in this database clear a high bar. STEMworks reviewed each program against CTEq's Design Principles for Effective STEM Philanthropy.
Identify and target a compelling and well-defined need.
Use rigorous evaluation to continuously measure and inform progress towards the compelling need identified.
Ensure work is sustainable.
Demonstrate replicability and scalability.
Create high impact partnerships
Ensure organizational capacity to achieve goals.
Offer challenging and relevant STEM content for the target audience
Incorporate and encourage STEM practices.
Inspire interest and engagement in STEM.
Identify and address the needs of under-represented groups.