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The Universe Forum's role as part of NASA's Education Support Network concluded in September, 2009. Please visit NASA at for current information about NASA's science, education, and public outreach activities.

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featured resources

Beyond the Solar System: Expanding the Universe in the Classroom
How can teachers and students explore some of the biggest questions about our place in space and time? This professional development DVD is filled with video, print, and online resources for educators of students and adults alike. Recommended for professional development providers and teachers of Grades 8-12.

The Incredible Two-Inch Universe (pdf and podcast)
Explore the universe by shrinking cosmic scale in four steps, zooming out from the realm of the Earth to the realm of the galaxies. An ASL video podcast accompanies this hands-on activity. Recommended for students, teachers, informal audiences, and the general public.
Download activity and view video podcast

Frequently Asked Cosmic Questions
Does the universe have an edge, beyond which there is nothing? How do we know there really was a Big Bang? Find answers to frequently asked questions about the structure and evolution of the universe here. Recommended for teachers and students Grades 7-12, and general audiences.

Cosmic Questions Educators' Guide (pdf)
This 74 page booklet, created to accompany the national traveling exhibition "Cosmic Questions: Our Place in Space and Time," contains 8 activities for understanding key astronomical concepts. "Cosmic Survey" "Modeling the Universe" "Learning about Light" "Multi-wavelength Astronomy" "The Expanding Universe" and "Is There Life Out There?" are among the activities included. Recommended for teachers of Grades 7-12.
Download Educators' Guide

How big is our universe? Booklet (website with downloadable pdf)
Using beautiful photographs and straight-forward methods and ideas, this website takes readers out of our solar system, into the realm of the stars, the galaxies, and finally the vast panorama of the observable universe. You can also download and print a pdf version of these explorations. Recommended for Grades 5-12 and general audiences.

This website contains information about our online telescope network, as well as several "challenges" for exploring the universe using images from these telescopes. The second link takes you to our new Observing With NASA portal. Recommended for teachers and students Grades 7-12. The OWN portal is recommended for general audiences.

Black Hole Interactive
Ever since Einstein, we've been exploring a universe in which space can stretch and time can slow down. This interactive animation lets you visualize how space and time are distorted around a massive object like a black hole. Recommended for general audiences.

Night Sky Network
Night Sky Network is a nationwide coalition of amateur astronomy clubs bringing the science, technology and inspiration of NASA's missions to the general public. If you are an amateur astronomer in a club that is interested in public outreach, find out more here:

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lesson plans and activities

Space Science Education Resource Directory
This website contains a searchable directory of NASA space science products and activities for use in classrooms, science museums, planetariums, and other settings. Recommended for teachers of all grades and informal educators.

Cosmic Survey (pdf)
This astronomical image-sorting activity lays the groundwork for discussions about the size, scale and history of the universe. Use it as a front-end assessment of how students understand the universe. Recommended for teachers of Grades 6-12 and informal educators.
Download Cosmic Survey

Modeling the Universe Workshop
Scientists and educators from several of NASA's Structure and Evolution of the Universe missions have developed a short course for teachers to learn about the connections between current space science investigations and our evolving models of the universe. Download a series of activities that can help your students explore models, evidence, and explanations about the structure and evolution of the universe. Activities include "Modeling the Universe" "Scaling the Universe in Your Classroom" "What's in the Universe?" and "Time Scavenger Hunt." A bulletin board offers networking opportunities with workshop developers and participants. Recommended for teachers of Grades 8-12.

How Fast do Galaxies Move?
This interactive laboratory combines real data with the Virtual Spectroscope and introduces students to the concepts of spectra and galactic motion in the expanding universe. Recommended for teachers and students, Grades 8-12.

The Virtual Spectroscope
This simplified Java version of the full-featured Virtual Spectroscope software shows interactive visual and graphical representations of the spectra of several light sources: flourescent and LED lamps, Hydrogen gas, the Sun, and 3 galaxies of increasing distance. Recommended for teachers and students, Grades 8-12.

SEU Exploration Workshop (website with downloadable pdf)
Download a series of activities, designed specifically for out-of-school learning environments, that explore our place in space and time. Activities include "Cosmic Poetry" "Cosmic Survey" "Modeling the Universe" "Time Scavenger Hunt" and the "Black Hole Board Game." Recommended for informal educators of grades 5-12.

GEMS Invisible Universe Guide
The Lawrence Hall of Science, in collaboration with NASA's "Swift" mission to study gamma-ray bursts, has produced an activity guide dedicated to deepening student understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum. This guide is part of LHS's "Great Explorations in Math and Science" series. Recommended for teachers of Grades 6-8.

Imagine the Universe
This NASA website offers activities and information for students ages 14 and up and for anyone interested in learning about our universe. Activities include "What is Your Cosmic Connection to the Elements?" and multi-media resources. Recommended for teachers and students Grades 7-12 and general audiences.

Chandra X-ray Observatory Classroom Activities
This section of Chandra's website contains classroom-ready activities about the electromagnetic spectrum and the objects observed by the Chandra x-ray telescope. Recommended for teachers of Grades 7-12.

Amazing Space
This website contains online explorations and classroom resources based on the greatest discoveries from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Recommended for students and teachers of Grades 3-12 and general audiences.

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resources for museums and planetaria

Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists
This new traveling exhibition immerses visitors in the modern search for black holes through a variety of interactive and multimedia experiences. Host site venues receive extensive educational program resources and support from the Universe Forum. Tour and itinerary details available from the Association of Science-Technology Centers.

Cosmic Questions Traveling Exhibition
Using stunning imagery and cutting-edge technology, this hands-on exhibit takes visitors to the edges of space and time, and into the heart of humanity's connection to the cosmos. Host site venues receive extensive educational program resources and support from the Universe Forum. Tour and itinerary details available from the Association of Science-Technology Centers.

Inside Einstein’s Universe
The Universe Forum joins the worldwide celebration of the Einstein Centennial. Together with our NASA and informal education partners, we have created a portfolio of highly visual and dramatic learning resources for exploring black holes, cosmology and more!

NASA Space Science Portal
This website serves as a portal to NASA resources and projects that support the space science learning that happens in science centers, museums and planetariums.

Hubble Source Informal Science Education Resources
Learn about products and resources available for museums, planetariums, and special venues, from the home of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

JPL Education Gateway
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory provides a variety of program and product resources for informal education venues.

NASA's Informal Education Program
The NASA Education Enterprise has established a national Informal Education program to engage the informal education community with NASA science and technology. Find out about upcoming resources and opportunities here.

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education standards

Science Education Standards Related to the Structure and Evolution of the Universe
What should students know about the origin and evolution of the universe? How can the context of NASA's space science investigations of the universe help students understand basic physical science concepts and ideas about the nature of science? Teachers, curriculum developers, and NASA Space Science Education and Outreach programs all need to think about these questions when designing learning experiences for students.
The two major national science education standards documents are the National Science Education Standards from the National Academy of Science's National Research Council; and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy from Project 2061 of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Science for All Americans
This initial Project 2061 document was a landmark statement of what "scientifically literate" Americans should know and understand about nature and about the nature of science. While the Benchmarks and Standards documents have identified by grade level the conceptual building blocks that lead to scientific literacy, no advocate for science education should ignore this narrative that answers the frequently-asked student question: "but why do I need to know this?"

McREL Standards Compendium
The organization Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning has created a very useful web-based compendium of standards in multiple disciplines. This link will take you to their Science Standards compendium, organized into Earth and Space Sciences, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Nature of Science. We've also created a pdf file excerpting all their standards specifically related to Structure and Evolution of the Universe topics.
Download McREL Standards

Compilation of Benchmarks and Standards Related to "Modeling the Universe" (pdf)
These documents were compiled to help inform the design of a professional development workshop for educators grades 8-12, on topics related to understanding the structure and evolution of the universe. They excerpt sections of both the AAAS Benchmarks and the NSES Standards that are relevant to the themes of "Models, Evidence, and Explanation" and "Origin and Evolution of the Universe."
Download Models, Evidence, and Explanation Standards
Download Origin and Evolution of the Universe Standards

Breakdown of Component Concepts for Universe Standards (pdf)
This document takes AAAS and NSES statements regarding what students should know about the origin and evolution of the universe by the end of 12th grade, and breaks them down into component concepts, many of which are frequent sources of student misconceptions.
Download Universe Standards

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eduation research

Astronomy Education Review
This journal-style website presents new ideas and resources for teaching and outreach in astronomy and space sciences. It has a number of articles reporting on studies of student understanding of astronomical topics. See especially the article A Review of Astronomy Education Research, by Janelle M. Bailey and Timothy Slater, Volume 2 Issue 2, 2003.

Cosmic Questions Front-End Evaluation (pdf)
The Program Evaluation Research Group from Lesley University worked with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics to inform the planning of Cosmic Questions: Our Place in Space and Time - an interactive science museum exhibition. What questions did visitors have about the universe? Did they have strong mental models of what the universe was like? This report documents extensive interviews with museum-goers.
Download Front-End Evaluation

Cosmic Questions Summative Evaluation Executive Summary (pdf)
This report from the Program Evaluation Research Group at Lesley University documents the major findings from a summative evaluation of this museum exhibition and includes an appendix full of visitor quotes regarding their experiences with the Cosmic Questions exhibition.
Download Executive Summary

How do visitors understand the universe?
This article, which was published in the May/June 1999 Association of Science-Technology Centers Newsletter, presents an overview of several front-end visitor studies from museums and science centers.

A Private Universe Teachers' Lab
Designed for teachers part of the "Private Universe" project, this website explores student ideas about key astronomical phenomena, presents activities to address misconceptions and demonstrate science knowledge, and offers discussion boards to communicate with science educators around the world.

The Astronomy and Space Science Concept Inventory
Dr. Phil Sadler's presentation at the 2006 Astronomical Society of the Pacific meeting in Baltimore provides an overview of new research projects at the Center for Astrophysics. Included in this work are tools for assessing student and teacher understanding, and for evaluating the effectiveness of educational programs in astronomy.
Download presentation

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additional learning resources

Astronomy Picture of the Day
NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website contains images and links to exciting astronomical discoveries and observations. It also includes a searchable directory and glossary of astronomical phenomena.

High Energy Astronomy Picture of the Week
Similar to Astronomy Picture of the Day, this site has weekly updates of news and images from telescopes observing in ultraviolet, X-Ray and gamma-ray light.

Space Place
This website especially for kids comes from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It has activities and projects for teachers, parents, and kids, and also a program to bring space science resources to small museums, planetariums and community centers around the country.

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