Learning Community Model

An Approach to Community-Wide Programming at the Local Level

To reach the next generation the Center engages entire communities—students, families, educators, and the public—through science education programs that provide multiple pathways for student learning. The programming is supported by compendia of grade K-12 lessons in the Earth and space sciences and related STEM disciplines that were developed from national science education standards and benchmarks. The lessons dovetail so well with the space science curriculum at the local level that they are adoptable as core components of the curriculum.

The Concept
We believe that stories of exploration have to be told across an entire community so that students—the next generation—can be inspired and educated by teachers in the classroom, parents at home, and educators in informal settings like museums and science centers. That’s why we created a customizable suite of programs capable of addressing all possible audiences and educational venues within a community. It is a model for the creation of a ‘Learning Community‘.

The Center's Learning Community Model. Click on Image for Zoom and Description

Click on Image for Zoom and Description

A wide array of program formats address formal education venues (e.g., classrooms) and informal venues (e.g., museums and science centers), including: school programs for students (grades pre-K to 20), professional development for educators (grades pre-K to 12), programs for families and the public, exhibitions, distance learning programs, and experiences delivered via the web.

The Learning Community Model addresses the entire grade pre-K—20 pipeline in order to support the full continuum of educational experiences—and is fully capable of engaging pre-K children as well as undergraduate non-science and science majors and graduate students at local colleges and universities.

The Result
When these diverse programs are delivered in concert, allowing leveraging of experiences, audiences, and resources, the result is truly a community-wide experience where the whole is far greater than the sum of the programmatic parts. This is realized at a personal level as, e.g., parents and their children take a journey together in subjects relevant to the curriculum, and parents become engaged in their children’s education.

Application of the Model in Diverse Communities
Community-wide program models have been developed and assessed over a wide range of environs, including: under-served rural communities with both large and small geographic footprints; inner-city urban areas with high minority populations; a multiple school district model; school district-led, science center-led, and university-led initiatives; a single grade-level model across a large school system; and a comprehensive grade pre-K—20 approach in smaller school districts.

Programming that is Strategic, Systemic, and Sustainable
The Learning Community Model defines the kinds of programs the Center is committed to delivering. Three criteria govern how these programs are delivered—

  • Programs are strategic—the breadth of our program capabilities allows a community to address their short- and long-term strategic objectives in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education by choosing programming based on their targeted educational content, educational venues, and audiences. Programming is tailored to the community. It is a model that deeply embraces the notion that only the community is in a position to understand their educational needs. The complexion of programming in each community is therefore unique.
  • We deliver programs systemically—e.g., providing audiences across an entire school district—or across an entire grade level within a district—with experiences that can be embedded at the curricular level, and enhanced with programmatic components delivered through local informal venues such as museums and science centers, and at home. This approach allows programming to naturally interface with other systemic educational activities in the community, e.g., curriculum development, adoption, and delivery; assessment of student performance; and professional development for teachers. on an ongoing basis.
  • Programs are designed and implemented to be sustainable, providing programming, content, and resources on an ongoing basis, so a lasting difference can be achieved. Such sustainability requires strategic buy-in from the school district(s). If that buy-in is present, then our commitment to sustainability can include: 1) training of a team of STEM lead teachers in the community that can serve as an enduring local content and programming asset; 2) advice and counsel on a a range of implementation strategies for sustainable programming; 3) a comprehensive suite of program logistics and scheduling tools; 4) an implementation plan that includes a transition to full community oversight of program planning and delivery in the near term; 5) identification of local presenter talent; 6) an annual conference providing supplemental training, and; 7) extensive national content and programmatic resources that can be provided on a long-term basis in support of ongoing programming.

Journey through the Universe and the Voyage National Program: Realizing the Vision
The Center’s initiative that delivers the fully realized vision for a Learning Community is Journey through the Universe, with a 10-year track record of programming in rural, suburban, and inner city communities. Through the Center’s Voyage National Program, a community can permanently install a replica of the Voyage model solar system exhibition on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and use this remarkable exhibition as a focal point for community-wide programming.

Try One of Our Programs in Your Community
If your community would like a single program to gauge community interest, gauge program quality, or just meet a one-time need—whether it’s an educator workshop, classroom visits by a National Team of scientists and engineers, or a program for families and the public—then read about our initiative To Earth and Beyond.

“The staff development workshop was excellent. It is one of the few workshops that advertised a K-12 range and truly had activities for each teacher’s grade level. The curriculum guides were outstanding. Many [teachers] are planning to use the activities with their classrooms almost immediately.

The classroom visits were a huge success. I think that many students may have set their sights on careers involving scientific research, engineering, and space exploration. What an important thing to occur in a community plagued with high unemployment and a high minority population.

In summary, I give the Journey through the Universe Program an A+.”
—Ira R. Trollinger, Ph.D., Superintendent Martinsville City Public Schools, Virginia


[The Center's] Journey Through the Universe Program has far exceeded our expectations during the past ten years. The full-scale sustainability of this program is clearly evidenced by the fact that our district has continued to use the “Journey” model while collaborating with local universities and scientists to present a week of focus on science.”
Jim Sisney, Ed. D., Superintendent, Broken Arrow Public Schools, Oklahoma