Education and Engagement in the COVID-19 Era
Within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, NOIRLab’s Education and Engagement programming is adapting to address the needs of our audiences. A flagship online program is the Live from NOIRLab webcast. Each week this program highlights NOIRLab facilities, people, and research in a hosted program on YouTube Live (live events and past programs are available on the NOIRLab YouTube channel). New programs are offered in English every Wednesday at 1:00pm HST, 4:00pm PDT/MST, and 7:00pm CLT. A Spanish language version of the program called En Vivo Desde NOIRLab is offered every other Thursday from NOIRLab-Chile.
The following online programs are also available:
- The June campaign of the Globe at Night Worldwide Citizen Science Campaign takes place from 13–22 June. This is an excellent chance to participate in real science from home!
- Following the successful online Teen Astronomy Café on 9 May on the expanding Universe with the Vera C. Rubin Observatory. A virtual Teen Astronomy Café on exoplanets is planned on 27 June.
The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, on Mauna Kea in Hawai‘i, and on Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that these sites have to the Tohono O’odham Nation, to the indigenous Hawaiian community and to the indigenous peoples in Chile.
NSF’s NOIRLab is committed to authentic and productive community engagement with diverse audiences which include our users, stakeholders, and advocates in the astronomy research system. Our community engagement efforts have the goal that we will be important and effective partners, as well as authentic collaborators, in engaging with the broader astronomy research, communications, and education ecosystems.
To develop a strong community engagement system requires NOIRLab to identify the stakeholders and partners necessary to achieve our overall mission and to identify specific audiences and their specific needs to which NOIRLab can skillfully contribute. For example, NOIRLab is committed to the preservation of dark skies around our observing facilities to maintain our research productivity. To achieve this goal, NOIRLab partners with research and education organizations and co-develops programs with our partners that can collectively advance us towards our shared goal of dark night skies optimized for research work, for the appreciation of the public, for preservation of health and energy, and even for economic growth through astro-tourism.
Similarly, NOIRLab works closely with local communities, including indigenous communities where our research sites are located, to make significant contributions to improve STEM education. In our community engagement effort, we strive to be authentic collaborators to solve the problems that our partners have identified as important. Another example of community engagement is our comprehensive, practical science communications effort, done in collaboration with the researchers who produce exciting results and our communications partners, who help us spread these results to multiple audiences using diverse media.
Under NOIRLab all education, public engagement and communication at Gemini, former NOAO and Vera C. Rubin Observatory Operations are merged into a shared services unit called Communications, Education & Engagement (CEE).
The long-range program plan for NOIRLab’s formal and informal education work is based on the high-level deliverables of the 2018 federal strategic plan “Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education” which describes a vision for the future where “all Americans will have lifelong access to high-quality STEM education and the United States will be the global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment”. These plans serve to inform the future NOIRLab education strategy.