While working in temporary positions at the Boulder History Museum from January 2009 to March 2011, in partnership with community collaborators, I envisioned, founded and directed Earth Explorers, a STEAM digital storytelling outreach initiative. From its outset in 2009, Earth Explorers (first called Launching Space) was envisioned and designed to be a phased, expandable program in which diverse middle school students would team up with mentoring scientists, engineers and others. Students, most of whom had never visited science institutions, would venture onsite to experience their scientists’ worlds. During these action-packed filming field trips, their storytelling mentors would bring science to life by literally opening doors to labs, showing how instruments are made and used, and as much as possible giving their young film teams a bit of hands-on experience. Based on these field trips, students would produce short, open-ended videos about aerospace, Space and Earth science.
At their fingertips would be archival weather and space photos, historic videos, world-class laboratories and instruments; and enthusiastic people. As an educational outreach initiative, this semester-long filming adventure would intentionally spark students’ curiosity about science and the natural world through hands-on experiences critical to the making of their open-ended science films. Along the way, they would forge lasting connections with inspiring mentors and institutions, while contributing to their community.
Critical to the development of this Spring 2009 concept were my critical founding outreach / collaboration efforts reaching out to educators and scientists at UCAR, NOAA, MESA, ATLAS, and LASP. These institutions fundamentally shaped Earth Explorers as an outreach program meeting community and educational needs.
Based on my teamwork approach to development, in 2009 I helped write an SCFD grant; and worked with NOAA’s ESRL Education Coordinator Carol Knight (who named the program Earth Explorers) to co-author a NOAA Preserve America Initiative proposal, submitted in December 2009. These 2009 proposals were awarded, specifically funding me to direct, coordinate, continue fundraising, and serve as producer for films created by about 80 diverse middle school students at Horizons K-8 Charter School and Trail Ridge Middle School. At least 20 scientists and engineers from UCAR, NOAA, LASP, Ball Aerospace, and the CU Aerospace Engineering Department contributed their time and enthusiasm to mentoring filmmaking students in 2010 and 2011.
TRANSITIONING: March 2011 and Beyond
In March 2011, I turned program direction, coordination, production and fundraising over to Trail Ridge Middle School. Thanks to fundamental 2009-2011 community support and enthusiasm from a wealth of institutions and supporters, EE Lead Science Teacher Liz Sims and EE Film Teacher Carolyn Wiley were able to rapidly formalize Earth Explorers, as it was originally envisoned during its 2009 founding year, into a nonprofit that continues to mature, expand and grow from its collaborative roots.
“This changed my
I’m more open to
other science fields.”
Fun With Paleoclimatology
Bruce Bauer, NOAA researcher
Young Students Film Scientists
NOAA ESRL Quarterly Newsletter