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The General Education Astronomy Source (GEAS) project is an astronomy education program based at New Mexico State University (NMSU). We have developed a set of resources for traditional and distance-learning undergraduate introductory astronomy courses. These materials aim to increase success for underrepresented students in New Mexico and throughout the nation by addressing two key needs. They provide a mechanism for students to review basic math and science and explore current astronomy topics at an adjustable pace, and they allow students whose work and family commitments complicate in-class, on-campus attendance to successfully pursue an accredited laboratory-based science course, mandatory in statewide graduation requirements.

The demand for higher education distance learning laboratory science courses is high in New Mexico, but offerings are limited. There is a strong unmet need, as a substantial fraction of students find it challenging to migrate to university campuses rather than remaining in the surrounding areas, and another fraction have work and family responsibilities which make it difficult for them to attend afternoon and evening class sessions. Astronomy laboratory sections fill to only 40% when held in the late afternoon or evening at NMSU, while the demand for sections which meet earlier in the day overwhelms the supply. Due to the limited availability of laboratory-appropriate space on campus, we are already at capacity during early time slots, and thus students who need these courses to graduate are turned away every semester.

By increasing access to laboratory science courses through distance learning, we can remove a significant barrier to completion of the bachelor's degree in New Mexico. Our program aids in integrating promising New Mexico students with an incipient interest in STEM fields into the college environment, a particularly crucial aid for the large fraction who form the first generation of high school graduates within their families. It can improve retention rates for at-risk students with limited math and science backgrounds, while stimulating interest in the pursuit of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) careers for STEM-field majors. Our materials can also deepen the scientific training for pre-service teachers and thus improve the K-12 educational experience locally.

Our program comprises four primary components, based on 26 lecture modules starting with exploration of the solar system and ending with the cosmology of the early universe.

Show Primary Components

Our staff invites you to learn more about our astronomy education program. We are interested in collaborating with science instructors at four-year institutions and community colleges and in dual-credit high school programs, to extend the reach of astronomy education in the Southwest Border Region and beyond. If you think that you would benefit from using our resources in an educational or outreach setting, or would like to learn more about our program, please contact us.

Summer 2016 Online Workshops

This summer we are offering an online workshop series for instructors interested in using GEAS lab resources in the coming year. Sessions will be held online, asynchronously, so that instructors may attend without having to travel or to be available at particular times of the day or week. We plan to keep the group size small so that participants can get to know each other and interact significantly.

We will begin each session with a live group video chat session to introduce the session topic and discuss general concerns. Each participant can then work at their own pace through the laboratory exercise materials, using a group discussion tool to bring up ideas and share questions with the group about the astronomy topics, the tools and assignments, and how to manage related issues in a classroom or with distance learners working remotely. We’d like the group to function as a high-powered analog to an actual cohort of learners, creating a supportive environment where everyone can work through assignments and discuss their results until they are confident conducting and teaching the associated activities.

Workshop Schedule


Lab #3: Cratering and the Lunar SurfaceJuly 11 – July 22
Lab #4: Cratering and the Martian Surface   July 25 – August 5

If you would like to participate in a lab workshop, please contact us.

Learn more about our program in a recent Astronomy magazine article, a 2013 article in the American Journal of Distance Education (A New Resource for College Distance Education Astronomy Laboratory Exercises), and a 2015 article in Cogent Education (An Online Tutor for Astronomy: The GEAS Self-Review Library).

Our materials are used throughout the USA (and beyond), and we are always happy to work with new instructors.