Multiverse Blog

Andi Nelson
/ Categories: In-Focus, Helio Forum

Reflections on the Creation of a Heliophysics Community of Practice

[This is one of a series of blog posts about our six-year involvement leading the NASA Heliophysics Science Education and Public Outreach Forum.]

Since January 2012, a group of science educators, NASA mission scientists and education specialists have met monthly online to discuss current heliophysics research and share educational resources and best practices to incorporate into their classrooms.

Originally, this group began as a group of twelve middle and high-school science educators recruited to participate as Lead Teachers to establish a Heliophysics Community of Practice (HCoP). These teachers were previous participants in existing NASA SMD E/PO Heliophysics teacher professional development programs, such as the Heliophysics Educator Ambassadors (HEA), the Geomagnetic Event Observation Network by Students (GEONS), THEMIS professional development programs and Van Allen Probes workshops.

Several participants had kept in touch with each other informally, continuing the supportive relationships they had formed during their educator programs. Using multi-mission funding and efforts, NASA E/PO educator coordinators were able to establish a more formal opportunity for these educators to meaningfully engage with others and support them in continuing to teach heliophysics in their existing classrooms. A regular meeting time each month was established for community members to come together online, where guest scientists and educators from heliophysics missions gave science update presentations, shared new curricular and educational resources available to use with satellite mission science, and to discuss needs and experience with each other. After the first year, community members wanted to open the group and invite new members, growing the membership to over 50.

For almost four years, the HCoP has met regularly, utilizing a streaming online video conferencing platform to participate from across the nation, including Puerto Rico, and across four time zones. While a presentation was made each month, the format of the meetings was discussion-oriented - rather than webinar formats - allowing community members to have an active role in making sure the needs and desires of the whole community were met. Meetings were recorded and archived in a YouTube channel, allowing presentations to be reviewed as needed by members needing to miss meetings and new members alike.  Discussions and sharing continued between meetings through the HCoP Wiggio page, a private online collaboration tool (Wiggio) where community members could post thoughts, questions, and responses, as well as archive and share resources and documents for others to use. These three pathways supported the community in being able to stay informed and connected with materials, content, and each other.

Via these virtual technology pathways, two retreats were offered over the years so members could participate from their homes. These retreats consisted of presentations from both scientists and educator members, as well as activities and discussions for educators to connect more deeply with materials and resources through practical experience. Discussions focused on ideas on incorporating the information into their existing curriculum. These online retreats also allowed community members to reconnect and get to know newer members, strengthening connections and bonds with each other.

In November 2015, the HCoP met for the last time, with nine of the original 12 members in attendance. A fitting presentation from the science team of NASA's Solar Probe Plus mission was given: launching in 2018, it will fly extremely close to the Sun, providing evidence to answer questions about our star that have been a century in the making.

While the HCoP will not continue to meet formally, members still are able to connect with each other via the Wiggio page, where they also can access the archived activities and resources collected over the years. All the monthly meetings and retreats were recorded and archived on the HCoP YouTube channel, as well, ensuring that members can revisit and refresh the amazing information and opportunities had over the course of the program.

Evaluation of the Heliophysics Community of Practice shows the value and importance the community members found in being part of this program, especially in being able to connect with scientists and other science teachers to better their own teaching practices and offerings as educators, showing the impact communities of practice can have in supporting in-service educators at any level.

Previous Article Reflections on Reporting the Accomplishments of NASA SMD Education Professionals
Next Article MAVEN Video Wins People's Choice in Data Stories
Multiverse skin is based on Greytness by Adammer