Explore Science: Earth and Space Activity Toolkit Summative Evaluation
As part of the public impacts evaluation work conducted for the Explore Science: Earth & Space activity toolkits developed and created through the NASA-funded Space and Earth Informal STEM education (SEISE) project, this summative evaluation study of the toolkits was designed to address and answer questions regarding the number and range of audiences reached by the project, visitor engagement, relevance, science identity, and their understanding around NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) content areas (astrophysics, planetary science, heliophysics, Earth science). The results are based on data collected from 16 project partner sites across the country that received either one or two Explore Science: Earth & Space activity toolkits.
How did we approach this study?
Two questions guided this summative evaluation:
1. How many people is it estimated that the project reaches annually? How is this distributed among the project’s target audiences? How many people might this project reach by the end of the grant and beyond?
2. How do target audiences a) engage with the activities, b) find relevance in them, c) strengthen or explore their science identity, and d) grow in understanding around the four NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) content areas (astrophysics, planetary science, heliophysics, and Earth science)?
Audience reach was calculated and informed by a project annual partner survey, as well as a participating site (i.e., institution partners that applied for and received the activity toolkits) survey. Public audience data collection included visitor group observations, surveys (adult and child) and group interviews, as well as data that was gathered at each participating site through an Event Description Form. The latter was used to provide a general overview of each site during data collection events for additional context.
What did we learn?
Some of the major findings include that the Explore Science: Earth & Space activity toolkits reached the general population as well as underserved audiences across multiple geographic areas, most audiences who engaged with the activities reported high levels of enjoyment, as well as being more interested and curious about Earth and space topics after experiencing the activities. Families also reported statistically significant increases in their confidence in talking about the SMD content areas (heliophysics, Earth science, planetary science, and astrophysics). A large proportion of families also said they found Earth & space topics more relevant to their daily lives after participating in the activities and reported engaging in behaviors that the project team considered useful for exploring or supporting a science identity.