Applications Accepted for 2020 Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program

Applications are now being accepted for the 2020 Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassadors Program (ACEAP). Visit – to apply.

This program, in its sixth year, brings amateur astronomers, planetarium personnel, and astronomy formal and informal educators to U.S.-funded astronomy observatories in Chile. While there, ambassadors receive behind-the-scenes tours of some of the world’s most productive and advanced telescopes, including in-depth information on their instruments and discoveries. Prior to the ACEAP Expedition, participants engage in professional development activities designed to improve STEM communication and education.

This unique professional development experience has become known for:

  • Providing unique access to facilities and people, and the astronomy ecosystem,
  • Bringing together people with diverse backgrounds and skills from both formal and informal education communities,
  • Investing in the Ambassadors: activities don’t stop at the end of the expedition or year of involvement,
  • Building on a foundation of common interest to develop deep connections between people,
  • Creating a network that continues to branch out, and
  • Providing a creative space for participants to interact.

Anyone, including international participants, may apply for one of five positions that are fully supported by their institution and/or personal funding. The remaining slots are restricted to U.S. citizens and permanent residents or Chilean residents who are amateur astronomers, K through college formal and informal educators who teach astronomy as part of their curriculum or program, planetarium educators, or those working in the area of astronomy communications.

Ten ambassadors will be selected for the Expedition, which will begin on August 9, 2020 and continue through August 17, 2020. This nine-day expedition (not including travel time between the U.S. and Chile) will include stops at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), Gemini-South Observatory, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

ACEAP Ambassadors

ACEAP Ambassadors. Ambassadors visit the Atacama Desert following a successful visit to the ALMA high-site at 16,500 ft. Photo by Tim Spuck (AUI/NSF).

In addition to the professional facilities, ACEAP ambassadors will visit smaller amateur/public observatories. Weather permitting, nighttime observing opportunities will be made available.

To learn more about the program and to apply, go to:

You can also visit us on Facebook at:

The deadline for applications is 11:59 p.m. (applicant’s local time), 22 March 2020.

Contact: Yasmin Catricheo at or Tim Spuck at


ACEAP is a collaborative project of Associated Universities, Inc., the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), and NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory including Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, Gemini Observatory, and The NSF Vera C. Rubin Observatory. ACEAP was initially funded in 2015 as a two-year pilot program by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Due to its success, a combination of institution, personal, and NSF funding have allowed the program to continue.

Teacher Innovator Institute

holt scholars space suit

Learn how to bring the museum experience into your classroom through informal STEM education at our inaugural Teacher Innovator Institute.

Spend two weeks in Washington, DC, working with education and STEM experts to explore the connections between informal STEM education and authentic learning. Develop an individual project that you can take back to your school and gain the skills to incorporate museum learning into your practice, and meet colleagues from around the country. There is no cost for teachers to participate.

The Teacher Innovator Institute will welcome 30 teachers from across the United States in Summer 2018. Teachers will remain with the program for three summers, returning to Washington, DC, each year to reconnect, develop their practice, and mentor the newest classes of Innovators.


Applications Due: April 1, 2018
Summer 2018 Program: Monday, July 9 – Friday, July 20, 2018
Institute Location: Washington, DC

Send questions to Shannon Baldioli

Who Should Apply

Middle School (grades 5-8) STEM teachers with an interest in expanding their practice to include informal education techniques. You may apply with colleagues from your school or district as a team. Efforts will be made to enroll a cohort who represents a diverse set of school types, geographic regions, teaching environments, and experiences.

Teachers Will Learn

Participants in the first cohort—and who continue for the entire three-year term–will grapple with the idea of “authentic learning.” A major buzz phrase in the formal and informal education communities, authentic learning is a broad construct that could be defined in different ways by different educators. At its root, the authentic learning movement seeks to involve real-world problems, use open-ended inquiry, and engage students in social learning. The cohort will work to define the term as it relates to their practice and design content around it as they progress through the program.

Through hands-on activities, museum tours, visits to other museums, group work, and expertise from museum educators and content experts, teachers will use aerospace science, history, and technology to shape their ideas about authentic learning and bring informal education techniques into their classrooms.

Teachers will propose an independent project to be completed over the two weeks. The project must be substantial (a unit plan, after school club, project for students, etc.) and centered around aerospace or content from the National Air and Space Museum.

We Provide

  • There is no cost for teachers to participate. Teachers are provided with lodging, food, and travel (to and within DC).
  • During the institute, teachers will be given VIP museum experiences and access to content experts in both informal education and aerospace content.
  • Participants will also have opportunities to connect with your cohort and museum staff several times during the school year.


  • Commit to two weeks each summer for three summers.
  • Propose an independent project and see it through to completion. Present the project to fellow Institute participants and Smithsonian staff. Participants will use approximately one quarter of their time working on projects independently.
  • Actively participate in sessions led by Smithsonian Institution staff and guests on the marriage of informal and formal learning.
  • Assist in the evaluation of and iteration upon current educational programming at the National Air and Space Museum.

Year One: Connect at least twice during the school year via videoconference (the Museum will provide the videoconference platform) to reflect and evaluate your practice with your fellow cohort. Present at least one professional development session for teachers in your school or district.

Year Two: Support a new cohort by continuing to participate in reflective practice videoconferences. Present at least two professional development sessions for teachers in your local district or region.

Year Three: Create curriculum and activities for a new cohort and actively mentor new teacher innovators. Present professional development to local teachers in the DC metro area.

How to Apply

Submit a completed application form by April 1, 2018. The application form will ask for basic contact and school information. If you are applying as part of a team, each person should submit their own application form.

Please submit the following with the form:

  • Administrator sign-off on participation in the institute. PDF iconTeacher Innovator Institute Administrator Sign Off
  • Letter of recommendation from a peer.
  • Letter of recommendation from a leader (administrator, team leader, etc.) in your school or district.
  • Propose an independent project to work on during the institute that can be implemented during the next school year. The project should be larger in scope than a single lesson plan (i.e. a unit plan, series of lessons, field trip plan (with pre- and post-visit lessons), after school club framework, project for students involving working with an expert to solve a real-world problem). Submit a one-page summary of the project.
  • A short (1-3 minute) video introducing yourself and discussing your role as an innovator in your teaching practice. We prefer a link to a Youtube video (an unlisted video is okay). You may also send us a link to a video on another platform such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. or upload your video in the application.

Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) Accepting Nominations

Do you know a K-6 teacher who provides excellent mathematics or science instruction to his or her students? Then please consider nominating him or her for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program. Anyone—researchers, parents, or members of the general public—may nominate a K-6 teacher by completing the nomination form available on the PAEMST website ( To submit a nomination, you only need the teacher’s contact information.

PAEMST is the highest honor the United States government bestows for K-12 mathematics and science teaching. Since 1983, more than 4,100 teachers have been recognized for their contributions to mathematics and science education. Awardees serve as models for their colleagues, inspiration to their communities, and leaders in the improvement of mathematics and science education. Up to 108 teachers may be recognized each year.

Presidential Awardees receive a certificate signed by the President of the United States, a trip for two to Washington, D.C., to attend a series of recognition events, professional development opportunities, and policy-maker meetings, and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

The Nomination Deadline is April 1, 2018. The Application Deadline is May 1, 2018 for elementary school teachers (Grades K-6). Secondary school teachers (Grades 7-12) are eligible to apply in 2019. If you know more than one teacher deserving of this award, you may submit more than one nomination. Teachers may also initiate the application process themselves at

Please consider nominating outstanding mathematics or science teachers today!

We Know More than We Can Tell

To unleash the potential of all learners, we need to start looking at what people can do, not just what they can say. “Many of The cognitive differences of neurodiverse students (learners with Autism, ADD, Dyslexia and other cognitive functions that make school difficult) may also empower them with creativity, resilience, and innovative approaches to problem-solving.

Our education system struggles to measure and support these different ways of thinking, denying diverse learners their optimal learning opportunities and robbing Our future workforce of The talent and ingenuity that diverse learners offer.

Digital environments—including games, augmented, virtual and mixed reality—offer new ways to measure learners’ implicit knowledge, not relying on a test. games have The “stickiness” that motivate diverse learners to drill deeper, pursue new challenges, and persist to solve problems.

Digital environments generate data logs and educational data mining models—algorithms that identify common patterns of behavior to see where each learner struggles and succeeds in a digital experience— can inform teachers and designers How to customize learning experience for each and every learner.”

Dr. Jodi Asbell-Clarke is the co-founder and co-director of the Educational Gaming Environments Group (EdGE) at TERC. TERC is a non-profit research and development organization focusing on innovative, technology-based STEM education. Jodi and the EdGE team of game designers, educators, and researchers study implicit STEM learning in digital games to transform science education.

A believer in Seymore Papert’s term ‘hard fun,’ EdGE applies it to education by designing challenging free-choice STEM learning games that are within the grasp of the player motivating them to keep playing and learn advanced science content in their free time. EdGE researchers also use educational data mining to measure implicit learning in games, and work with educators to understand how it can be leveraged to measure classroom learning of related STEM content. EdGE is currently researching how AR and VR can enhance learning, especially for learners with particular skills and challenges, such as ADHD and autism.

Before joining TERC, Jodi dreamed of being an astronaut and went to Houston where she was an onboard software verification analyst for IBM during the first 25 space shuttle missions. She also taught Physics and Astrophysics to some of the brightest students in the country at the laboratory school at University of Illinois. Jodi’s academic background includes an MA in Math, an MSc in Astrophysics, and a PhD in Education. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Making college affordable

Making college affordable

Low-income students are eight times less likely to earn a college degree than their higher-income peers

LANSDOWNE, Va. (November 9, 2017) — Colleges can dramatically increase the odds of success for students with financial need by changing their financial aid practices, according to a new report from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The report, titled “Making College Affordable,” examines the numerous barriers preventing low-income students from enrolling and persisting in college. These barriers include concerns over high tuition and fees, lack of clarity on award amounts and duration, and a limited understanding of how financial aid works.

“Students’ success in higher education should be decided by their talent and hard work, it should not depend on their families’ incomes,” said Harold Levy, executive director of the Cooke Foundation. “When colleges are inaccessible to students with financial need, those students are cheated out of an education, and we, as a society, lose out on their talent and contributions. It’s well past time we stop viewing higher education as a privilege for those who can afford it and start viewing it as a right for all who have the potential to succeed.”

According to the report, widespread university practices such as the shift towards merit-based scholarships may actually exacerbate barriers by limiting available aid to low-income students who need it the most. Lack of understandable information in financial aid award letters also puts low-income students at a disadvantage because students may incorrectly conclude that a college education is unattainable — or enter college without a full understanding of how to manage costs, and ultimately drop out.

The report outlines 11 best practices that colleges and universities should implement to help low-income students finance their college education. The strategies are organized into three categories: clarifying financial information, easing the financial burden, and filling in financial aid gaps. By implementing the strategies, schools can provide students with better information to make more informed choices, make going to college more affordable, and help students maximize the aid they receive.

“For too long, students have been left out of the equation when it comes to college affordability,” said Dr. Zakiya Smith, strategy director at Lumina Foundation and author of the report’s foreword. “With this report, we can start to have a conversation about taking the onus off the student to figure out how to pay for college and putting it on institutions to provide students with better information to help them make more informed choices.”

“Making College Affordable” was written by Dr. Jennifer Glynn, director of research at the Cooke Foundation, and Dr. Crystal Coker, postdoctoral research associate at the foundation. The report is available for download on the foundation website here: