Published March 21, 2022
Dodge City Community College (DC3) Professor of Physical Science, Sherry Curtis Rogers, was selected recently by the SETI Institute as one of the 2022 NASA Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors (AAA).
Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to understand the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in the universe and to share that knowledge with the world. And AAA is a professional development program for middle school, high school, and community college teachers that seeks to improve science teaching and enhance student learning and STEM engagement.
“I am participating in the NASA Community College Network (NCCN) program,” Rogers said. “It was started last year. I applied in March and was accepted into the pilot program in May.”
Rogers said that it was through NCCN that she found out about the AAA program.
“This is the 10th cycle for the AAA program,” she said. “But it is the first year that community college instructors could apply.”
Selected as one of 24 teachers, from 13 states, Rogers will receive training in astrophysics and planetary science, and she will attend a week-long STEM immersion experience this fall at a NASA astronomy research facility such as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) based in Palmdale, Calif., or the Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, in Hawaii.
“We started trainings in February. We have six more virtual trainings before the summer,” she said. “Over the summer, we have an in-person professional development to attend. We also have to take an asynchronous astronomy course focused on astrophysics, planetary science, and infrared astronomy.”
After she completes the spring and summer components of her training—and the week-long STEM immersion experience this fall—Rogers said she will teach a module on the electromagnetic spectrum and infrared astronomy in her DC3 astronomy and physical science classes. In addition, she said she also plans to reach out to the Dodge City High School science department to share her NASA resources with them.
“Through the NCCN program I already have access to resources other community college teachers do not have,” she said. “For example, a couple of weeks ago a NASA engineer who designed and built some of the instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) gave a virtual presentation on the JWST for my astronomy class. Not all community college students get that opportunity. With the addition of the AAA program, I will get more professional development, resources, and equipment to share with my students.”
Curtis said that being named as an astronomy ambassador—a cherished title that she gets to keep for the remainder of her career—is a big honor for her both personally and professionally.
“I love astronomy almost as much as I love my students,” she said. “It is my favorite subject to share with my students. For someone born and raised in rural western Kansas, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Story and Photo by Lance ZieschDC3 Assistant Director of Marketing and Community Relations