National Aeronautics and Space Administration


Date of this Version



Published in Weber, Samantha, and David Harmon, eds. 2008. Rethinking Protected Areas in a Changing World: Proceedings of the 2007 GWS Biennial Conference on Parks, Protected Areas, and Cultural Sites. Hancock, Michigan: The George Wright Society.


Incorporating science content into the presentation of resource issues to the public is essential for effective interpretation. Science professionals are eager to share their work; interpreters are equally eager to learn about relevant science. Yet, interpreting science and resource issues remains a challenge. Professional development for interpreters is critical to effectively address this challenge. Here, we describe a proven model for integrating science into interpretation: the National Park Service (NPS)–NASA Earth to Sky Institutes. These institutes resulted in the creation of a variety of products using science in dynamic interpretation at many national parks.We highlight the methodology of the Earth to Sky Institutes, and share strategies—of successful training including authentic work time, opportunity for reflection, and the creation of a resource-rich learning environment.

The Earth to Sky NASA Explorer Institutes constituted one of several professional development projects funded in 2004 by NASA’s Division of Informal Education. Earth to Sky Institutes were unique in forging an exciting new partnership between NASA’s space and earth science disciplines, and(NPS interpretation. For the first time, NASA scientists and education specialists worked in true collaboration with NPS interpretation trainers. The team wove NASA’s rich content with proven NPS interpretation professional development methodology and research-based adult education techniques to create effective professional development opportunities for rangers.