Columbus State Part of $1.2 Million Grant to Improve Astronomy Teaching

The Georgia Department of Education and its partners at Columbus State and Georgia Southern universities have won a $1.2 million grant to improve astronomy teaching in Georgia’s high schools.

The goal of the Georgians Experience Astronomy Research in Schools (GEARS) project is to transform the way high school astronomy is taught in all of Georgia’s public schools.

GEARS — using innovative, rigorous, NASA-research-infused astronomy curriculum — will use online and classroom methods to conduct teacher training across the state. The end result: Thousands of students in rural, urban and suburban areas will learn astronomy by highly trained teachers.

This award is a result of a Congressional program initiated in 2008 to leverage NASA’s unique contributions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to engage and stimulate high school students learning.

“”The new astronomy curriculum developed as part of GEARS will help propel Georgia forward as an innovator in K12 Science Education as it will meld the use of authentic data and technology in the classroom,” said Zodiac T. Webster, associate professor of physics at Columbus State and the lead at CSU on the grant. “NASA resources are so varied that making interesting and relevant lessons should be relatively easy. The curriculum development is partnered with teacher training to ensure those in the classroom will be comfortable with the technology and the content. We hope to have every high school in the state able to teach astronomy as a fourth (or elective) science by the end of the grant period.”

A limited number of teachers are being recruited to be GEARS Resource Teachers to receive additional training and support to help develop and disseminate the curriculum. Information about GEARS and information about the resource teacher opportunity can be found at The deadline for applications for Resource Teachers is June 12, 2009.

The principal investigator for this project is Juan-Carlos Aguilar, science program manager at the Georgia Department of Education. The institutional director at Georgia Southern University is Sarah Higdon, instructor of astronomy.

For a list of selected proposals, visit:

For information about the NASA Education program, visit:

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

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