Creating Connections with NASA’s Universe of Learning and Museum Alliance

Contributed by Amelia Chapman

What do you think when you hear “Education”?

To many, “Education” equals “school.” But of course people are always learning, no matter their age and regardless of whether they’re being graded. All that out-of-school, life-long learning is the reason for the term “informal education.”

NASA’s Museum Alliance provides informal education institutions with access to NASA staff, resources and professional development.

More than 1000 organizations around the world – museums, planetariums, science centers, libraries, parks, observatories, camps, nature centers, and youth-serving organizations – are Museum Alliance members. They in turn share those NASA resources with their own diverse audiences. Exhibitions and programming naturally engage learners of all ages and experience levels as they follow their own curiosity. No one “has to” learn anything - they just want to.

NASA Universe of Learning LogoSharing NASA’s uniquely inspiring work

The Museum Alliance helps informal education organizations provide a full range of NASA content to their audiences. Its collaboration with NASA’s Universe of Learning is a great example of how this plays out.

By working with the Museum Alliance, NASA’s Universe of Learning has a way to easily disseminate current science to the informal education community. For the Museum Alliance, partnering means the ability to provide those educators with direct access to leading astronomical researchers, as well as targeted resources.

As a result, informal educators and their audiences benefit. They learn about the latest astronomical discoveries, opportunities for involvement, and materials. They are able to speak directly with the experts, clarifying their own understanding and ability to disseminate the content to their public.

The questions at the heart of NASA’s Universe of Learning - How does the universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone? – are fundamental human questions. Museums and other institutions of discovery and learning are glad to have help presenting real data on these once seemingly unanswerable topics.

Get involved!

Museum Alliance members are invited to list their NASA-related exhibitions and programs on  the “Events Near Me” map on the public Museum Alliance site. There, anyone can search for events and exhibits by location, mission, date, and more.

But, even if it isn’t being featured at an organization near you, NASA’s Universe of Learning resources are made available directly to all, starting with the public archive of Science Briefings held with informal educators. Similarly, while museums may screen ViewSpace within an exhibition, anyone can explore the collection of interactives and videos on their own. The Eyes on Exoplanets interactive, featured in the Discover Exoplanets traveling exhibition, can be accessed anywhere to stay up to date on discoveries of planets outside our solar system. Also, the hands-on activities of Girls STEAM Ahead With NASA that are being used in libraries and museums are also great for families at home.

Getting people involved with NASA is central to the mission of both NASA’s Museum Alliance and Universe of Learning. Working together, they’ve created many pathways for connection – and are ready to help you find the one that’s best for you!

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Author bio: Working in a range of science, history, art and cultural museums, Amelia Chapman has helped audiences of all ages learn from real objects and direct, hands-on experiences. Now at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she helps run the Museum Alliance community of practice, providing professional development and NASA resources to informal educators who want to use the excitement of space exploration and scientific discovery to inspire new generations.

This material is based upon work supported by NASA under cooperative agreement award number NNX16AC65A. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.