Interstellar Boundary Explorer

From Dave McComas, IBEX Principal Investigator

Dave McComas
When the IBEX website first debuted in 2005, and for several years afterward, each month we highlighted a member of the IBEX team, including their role on the team and how their childhood experiences led to careers in space exploration. In October 2008 – the month we launched, I was the subject of the monthly highlight, and I talked a little about my struggles with dyslexia. 

I have been a strong advocate of showing students with dyslexia that they can, indeed, utilize their strengths and reach for the stars. In March 2014, I was honored to give a presentation at the Dyslexia and Innovation conference about my dyslexia, how I learned to use my other strengths, and some of the science results from the IBEX mission. You can watch the video on YouTube. Some parts of the talk were hard to give, so I really hope that this presentation will be useful to others with dyslexia. I encourage you to forward it to anyone you think might be interested and especially encourage parents and teachers to share it with their children who might be affected or who interact with others who are. 

Now that this video is available, I also thought it would be a good time to give an overview of the IBEX’s broader Education and Public Outreach program and highlight our efforts to create support materials for teachers of middle school students with dyslexia. Go IBEX!

IBEX Education and Public Outreach Program Overview

The Interstellar Boundary Explorer mission includes a comprehensive Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) program in heliophysics that is overseen and implemented by the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. The program includes a full–dome digital planetarium show, IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System, that has been distributed to more than 150 U.S. planetariums in 42 states and more than 100 international planetarium sites. IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System has been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, Greek, Estonian, Hindi, Russian, French, Telugu, Mandarin, and Cantonese, and we believe our planetarium show is the first ever to be distributed to all seven continents. Accompanying the show are informal education activities, printed posters, lithographs and other resources, curriculum materials, the IBEX mission website, materials for people with visual impairments and middle school students with dyslexia, participation in the Heliophysics Educator Ambassador program, and support for the Space Explorers Afterschool Science Club for Chicago Public Schools.

Here are some highlights of the past six years of the IBEX Education and Public Outreach program:

  • Since March 2009, nearly 100,000 U.S. visitors viewed the IBEX planetarium show.
  • Approximately 340,000 IBEX educational products, including lesson plans, posters, lithographs, reading strategy guides, tactile materials for people with visual impairments, and more were distributed to teachers, students, and the general public.
  • The Adler Planetarium–led Space Explorers Afterschool Science Clubs program has reached more than 1,200 middle school students over 4 years.
  • The Heliophysics Educator Ambassador program has reached more than 4,000 teachers and 400,000 students.
  • All of the IBEX educational materials passed NASA Education Product Review and are available through the NASA Wavelength educational resource site

Materials for Teachers of Middle School Students with Dyslexia

A very special component of the IBEX Education and Public Outreach program was to fund the development of seven strategy guides for teachers of middle school students with dyslexia. The first six guides utilize student text from Great Explorations in Math and Science (GEMS) Space Science Sequence for Grades 6–8 and other GEMS materials. The development of the GEMS Space Science Sequence for Grades 6–8 was partially funded by IBEX and led by the Lawrence Hall of Science in California. The GEMS Space Science Sequence is designed to address age–appropriate core concepts in space science and common misconceptions that students have about them, and it is divided into four units: How Does the Sun Affect the Earth?, Why Are There Seasons?, The Solar System, and Beyond the Solar System. Within each of the units, students explore different areas of space science, building on what they have learned, having their misconceptions challenged, and making connections to other areas of science they have studied. Many of the pedagogical techniques used in the curriculum sequence benefit a wide range of learners, including students with dyslexia. The strategy guides provide teachers of middle school students with a reading strategy and supplemental resources, background information on that strategy, connections to standards, classroom implementation techniques, tips for utilizing this strategy with students with dyslexia, and a two–page reading based on a particular space science concept. The guides are available through the IBEX website

In partnership with GEMS, the IBEX E/PO team created a companion guide to the GEMS Space Science Sequence for Grades 6–8. While the guide can be used on its own, when used in conjunction with the Space Science Sequence, the accommodations can enhance the lessons for students who struggle to read. The guide is available through the IBEX website, titled Accommodating Middle School Students with Dyslexia in Science

All of the reading strategy guides detailed above are accessible using screen reader software.