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For Educators and Students

The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian creates and shares educational materials to support learning beyond the walls of the CfA. Our science educators are committed to providing learning opportunities for educators, students, and the general public.

The CfA, comprised of education researchers, scientists, teachers, media specialists and graduate students, is a national leader in science education. Major projects include the development of misconception-based assessment instruments, curriculum materials and educator learning resources, museum exhibits and programs, and online resources and activities for the public.

STEM Curricula

Science educators at the CfA collaborate to develop curricula and associated materials to identify and address the needs of science educators and their students, both in formal classrooms and informal settings.

  • ExoLab: The Laboratory for the Study of Exoplanets (ExoLab) is a project designed to give high school students hands-on experience studying planets orbiting other stars. Classroom activities provide students with the opportunity to collect their own exoplanet data using the MicroObservatory Robotic Telescope Network, analyze the observational results they obtain, and create mathematical models to describe planetary motion. The ExoLab program is designed and managed by researchers in the Science Education Department at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian.
  • MicroObservatory: NASA's space science researchers control some of the world's most sophisticated space probes and orbiting telescopes to get amazing images of objects in space. Now you can join them by operating your own ground-based "MicroObservatories" - real robotic telescopes that you command.
  • WWT Ambassadors Curricula & Stand-Alone Lessons: K-12 curricula including lesson plans, videos, worksheets, and material lists, all developed from research-based, grant-funded projects and collaborations with educators around the country. 
  • "From the Ground Up!" Exploring the Universe with Online Telescopes: Get up-close and personal with the cosmos, through a series of seven investigations that use real telescopes you control online.  You’ll compare your own eye to the telescope, explore the moons of Jupiter, determine the distance to a star... even estimate the age of the universe.  You’ll learn how to create full-color pictures of celestial objects, and you’ll investigate that perennial question:  “Is the Moon really larger when it’s on the horizon?”

Informal Programs & Resources

The Center for Astrophysics has a long history of collaboration with museums and planetariums nationwide, contributing key resources, exhibits and presentations to support learning about the universe.

  • NASA's Universe of Learning: How does the Universe work? How did we get here? Are we alone? NASA, in partnership with the CfA and other scientific institutions, aims to give learners of all ages the opportunities to explore these questions for themselves. 
  • Here, There, Everywhere: Our knowledge of familiar processes can be applied to help us understand similar behavior on grander scales in physics, and in very different environments.
  • Chandra X-ray Observatory Resources: Our flagship NASA X-ray observatory offers a variety of learning resources, from "Ask an Astrophysict" to an immersive 3D model of an exploded supernova remnant. 
  • AstrOlympics: The AstrOlympics project explores the spectacular range of science that we can find both in the impressive feats of the Olympic Games as well as cosmic phenomena throughout the Universe. By measuring the range of values for such things as speed, mass, time, pressure, rotation, distance, and more, we can learn not only about the world around us, but also about the Universe we all live in.
  • Women in Science: This series from our Chandra X-ray Observatory highlights the history of women's contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and their crucial, but often overlooked or underrepresented, impact on STEM fields.
  • From Earth to the Universe: A collection of astronomical images that showcase the most dramatic views of our Universe, and bring these directly to you. 
  • My Sky: An exhibit about the Universe that gives families the chance to practice science skills like observing, communicating, noticing patterns, predicting, imagining and more. Funded by NASA and created through a partnership between the Boston Children's Museum and the CfA. 

Professional Development

The Science Education Department has produced a number of resources to assist educators in their own professional learning.

  • MOSART: A resource for teachers to understand their students' preexisting misconceptions in science education, using assessment instruments comprised of a set of multiple-choice items that are linked to the K–12 physical science and earth science content, and K–8 life science content in the NRC National Science Education Standards, as well as to the research literature documenting misconceptions concerning science concepts. 
  • Chemistry: Challenges and Solutions: Teaches general chemistry concepts using real-life challenges in energy, materials development, biochemistry, and the environment.
  • Physics for the 21st Century: This online course explores the frontiers of physics and presents an overview of key areas of rapidly-advancing knowledge in the field, arranged from the sub-atomic scale to the cosmological.
  • Beyond the Solar System: A video series, produced by the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian for NASA, to provide resources to science educators looking to explore the Earth and space with their students.

Mentor Program

The Science Research Mentoring Program (SRMP) at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian (CfA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provides an opportunity for high-school students to work on a year-long independent research project in astrophysics under the guidance of a Harvard or MIT scientist. Students learn what it is actually like to conduct real, cutting-edge research and work closely with scientists from diverse backgrounds.