400 Years of the Telescope Summative Evaluation
The NSF-funded 400 Years of the Telescope project was a unique partnership among a public television station, a production studio, two planetariums and a leading astronomical society in the United States. Its five main components included a one-hour PBS documentary, a 22-minute planetarium program, a website with astronomical infromation, "star parties"(nighttime astronomical viewing events) and promotional events hosted by PBS affiliate stations. The summative evaluation focused on three main evaluation questions: 1) What are the individual and cumulative impacts of the menu of deliverables?, 2) Which path(s) did people take when engaging in the activities?, and 3) What is the most effective way of getting people to look up at the night sky? The main methods used to answer the questions included online surveys with audiences engaging in at least one of the five deliverables (n=848) and follow-up in-depth telephone interviews with a subset of the online survey sample (n=34). Results show that there were benefits for those who engaged in the project through multiple deliverables. While each deliverable achieved positive outcomes on its own, participation in more deliverables resulted in higher outcomes for the majority of main outcomes measured in this study. This means that the different deliverables not only complemented each other well but each of them also delivered something additional to the experience, positively impacted astronomy-related outcomes. Furthermore, participants interviewed by telephone several months after their involvement stated that engaging in the 400 Years project did change the way that they think about astronomy, at least to some degree. Overall, there is evidence to support the model that providing multiple entry points is effective in engaging multiple public audiences in astronomy. The appendix of this report includes the online survey instruments, interview protocols and instruments, and event surveys used in this study.