Middle School science teacher Ace Schwarz was one of 10 educators selected to participate in the 2023 NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP), which partners small groups of educators with a research astronomer for original, year-long, authentic research projects.
“This opportunity is really unique because I get to be a scientist first and a teacher second. We’ll be working on research that’s never been done before, which is really exciting! We do labs with students all the time, and now it’s my turn to create a question, collect data, and present my findings. I’m excited and overwhelmed in the best way possible, and I can’t wait to get started,” commented Mx. Schwarz.
To kick off the project, Mx. Schwarz attended the 241st meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, WA, held January 8-12, 2023. Working alongside Dr. Luisa Rebull (Caltech/IPAC) and four other educators from across the country, Mx. Schwarz will comb through science data from NASA/IPAC Infrared Science Archive (IRSA), the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), and the NASA Exoplanet Archive, as well as other NASA holdings, to explore astronomy questions and present their findings at next year’s AAS meeting. Mx. Schwarz’s group will use the image databases to identify young stellar objects within 200-300 targets.
This year, the educators from the 2022 class, along with some of their students, presented the results of their work from the past year while the new 2023 cohort met their teams and kick-started their own projects.
NITARP’s unique approach to “teaching the teacher” enables NASA to reach thousands of students every year with information about how science really works, what NASA does, and the wealth of astronomy data that is freely available to the public. NITARP supports NASA’s goals of inspiring and motivating students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as to engage the public in shaping and sharing the experience of exploration and discovery.
Since 2004, a total of 140 educators from 42 states have participated or will participate in the program, which is funded through the NASA Astrophysics Data Program. The 2022 cohorts presented their research on detecting young stellar objects and remnants of planetary formation. All NITARP participants’ posters can be viewed on the NITARP website
The 2022 educators will now go on to conduct at least 12 hours of professional development for their colleagues in their schools and communities at the local, regional, and national levels, both online and in-person.
The 2023 teams met each other for the first time at this month’s AAS meeting in Seattle to learn about their projects. They plan to present their results, with their students, at the 2024 AAS winter meeting to be held in New Orleans, LA. IPAC, based at Caltech, in Pasadena, CA, is leading this program. More information NITARP can be found on its website.