Education & Outreach

WARC brings Education and Public Outreach (EPO) activities in astrobiology to a wide range of audiences, including the general public, K-12 schools, and college-level students. Below we group our EPO activities into three groups: 1) Activities aimed at the public and K-12 schools in the southern Wisconsin region, run through the Geology Museum at UW-Madison, 2) Formal (for-credit) college courses ranging from Freshman to Graduate level at UW-Madison, and 3) Nation-wide EPO activities run through NASA-JPL. In addition, the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) maintains a compilation of EPO activities and materials from all NAI teams (see bottom of page).

Public Outreach in Southern Wisconsin


An extensive array of WARC EPO activities are run through the UW-Madison Geology Museum. Our team is experienced in and enthusiastic about communicating with the public. In our first grant (CAN-4) EPO work, our research and outreach team have shared astrobiology at a minor league ballpark, music festivals, an art-science exhibition, afterschool programs, a museum exhibit, educator workshops and telecons, and with the audience of Wisconsin Public Radio. We pride ourselves on seeking out new outreach venues and reaching untapped audiences. Our current efforts aim to build on our prior work and continue to share astrobiology research across Wisconsin and around the country.

More information on our EPO activities under the previous grant (CAN-4) can be found here.

More information on our EPO activities under our current grant (CAN-6) can be found here.

College Courses in Astrobiology Topics

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Since the formation of WARC, over 1400 college students have passed through our courses in Astrobiology at UW-Madison. Astrobiology courses taught by WARC faculty include Geoscience 117 (EX-files: Life in the Earth’s Extreme Environment), Astronomy/Geoscience 160 (Life in the Universe), Geoscience 304 (Geobiology), and Geoscience 875 (Astrobiology Seminar). These courses are taught by UW-Madison professors Clark Johnson, Clay Kelly, Eric Roden, John Valley, Eric Wilcots, and Huifang Xu.

More information on our Astrobiology courses may be found here.

UW-Madison “Origins” Project

The University of Wisconsin Communications and University Marketing programs have produced a web site and documentary film on “Origins“, which explores our roots from the perspectives of anthropology, geology, and astronomy. In particular, this work highlights WARC research on the ancient Earth and early life based on geologic work in South Africa.


NASA Nationwide Astrobiology Programming


Solar System Ambassadors (SSA) are trained volunteers who share information about NASA’s space missions with people in their local communities. There are more than 500 Solar System Ambassadors in 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the District of Columbia, with additional Ambassadors currently living in the Netherlands, Canada, Kenya, and US military bases overseas conducting programs for local audiences. In addition, many of these Ambassadors conduct programs in underserved rural or urban areas. Annually, Ambassadors reach about one-half million people in direct contact events (e.g., star-gazing parties, library displays, and planetarium talks) and many more via media outlets (radio, television, publications, and social media).  Over the past five years as part of our CAN-4 E/PO efforts, the Solar System Ambassadors have conducted 631 astrobiology-themed events reaching over 1.2 million people. WARC’s participation in the SSA program is through Co-I Kay Ferrari at NASA-JPL.

More information on the SSA program can be found here.


NASA Nationwide is a program providing NASA resources to fourteen national volunteer networks (including the Girl Scouts, Night Sky Network, Museum Alliance, and Solar System Ambassadors). One major component run by WARC Co-I Kay Ferrari at NASA-JPL is the Solar System Educators (SSEs) program. SSEs are volunteer master teachers who share information about NASA’s educational products with other educators in support of NASA EPO activities. Currently there are 104 Solar System Educators in all fifty states and Puerto Rico. Annually, SSEs reach about 10,000 teachers and students with NASA’s STEM educational products. These teachers use NASA-connected curricula in their classrooms and regularly interact with NASA scientists and engineers. On average, each SSE annually provides training in space-related education to over 100 of their peers.

More information on NASA Nationwide can be found here.

EPO News and Materials at NAI


The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) has compiled an extensive set of EPO activities and products related to NAI-funded teams, which dates back to the first set of teams that started in 1998. In addition to NAI-sponsored EPO activities, NAI posts EPO material generated by the broader astrobiology community.

More information on EPO materials hosted by the NAI web site can be found here.

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