Public Engagement in Astronomy and the Outdoors

February 1st, 2012 - January 31st, 2015 | PROJECT

A partnership between Carthage College and the Appalachian Mountain Club has delivered a successful public education and outreach program that merges natural environment topics and astronomy. Over the four years of activity, over 25,000 people have received programming. The effort has trained nature educators, permanent and seasonal AMC staff, and undergraduate physics and astronomy students to integrate diverse topical material and deliver high quality programming to the lay public. Unique to the program is the holistic nature of the material delivered - an 'atypical' astronomy program. Linking observable characteristics of the natural world with astronomical history and phenomena, and emphasizing the unique sequence of events that have led to human life on Earth, the program has changed attitudes and behaviors among the public participants. Successful interventions have included hands-on observing programs (day and night) that link nature content to the observed objects; table-talk presentations on nature/astronomy topics; dark skies preservation workshops; and hands-on activities developed for younger audiences, including schools, camps, and family groups. An extensive evaluation and assessment effort managed by a leading sociologist has demonstrated the effectiveness of the approach, and contributed to continuous improvement in the program content and methods.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Douglas Arion, Principal Investigator, Carthage College


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Special Programs in Astronomy
Award Number: 1156437
Funding Amount: $105,645.00

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Special Programs in Astronomy
Award Number: 1432662
Funding Amount: $43,700.00


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Families | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Undergraduate | Graduate Students | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | General STEM | Geoscience and geography | Nature of science | Physics | Space science
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Informal | Formal Connections | K-12 Programs | Park | Outdoor | Garden Programs | Public Programs