Jay M. Pasachoff Solar Eclipse Mini-Grants Program
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) Solar Eclipse Task Force invites proposals for small grants to fund programs, activities, and events that will engage the public with the April 8, 2024, solar eclipse across North America. Priority will be given to programs specifically designed to engage meaningfully in eclipse education, outreach, and science activities with under-represented groups (URGs, including women/girls, ethnic minorities, and people with physical and/or mental disabilities) who often don't imagine themselves in science careers or who believe that science is “not for them.”
This program is named for the late Jay M. Pasachoff, a charter member of the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force. After completing his education at Harvard University and Caltech, Jay spent the next 50 years as a professor of astronomy at Williams College in Massachusetts. Among his primary research interests were the heating and dynamics of the Sun's corona, which he studied at solar eclipses all across the planet. He was deeply devoted to advancing astronomy education and the public's understanding of science, bringing students on his eclipse expeditions, writing best-selling astronomy textbooks, and authoring numerous popular books, magazine articles, and opinion pieces in major newspapers.
We anticipate making 20 to 30 awards in the standard range $1,000 to $5,000 and a smaller number of awards in the augmented range $5,001 to $20,000. If you seek one of the augmented mini-grants, you must pay special attention to your budget justification. Legitimate reasons for applying for one of these larger awards include, but are not limited to, the large scale of a proposed program, activity, or event (e.g., the large size of the audience to be reached); the need for expensive equipment to achieve the objective of a proposed science experiment; and the high cost of professional services to be engaged in producing an app, a software product, or a program for radio, TV, or other broadcast.
Proposals were due by 5:00 pm Eastern time on Friday, November 10, 2023. As the deadline has now passed, we are no longer taking proposal submissions.
Building on existing partnerships within the target communities is especially encouraged. We expect most proposals will be aimed at engaging the public in the proposers’ local communities via education, outreach, and/or science programs held in venues such as science museums, planetariums, libraries, afterschool programs, schools, colleges, etc. No grants will be awarded for activities limited to students in one school or that fail to engage families and the public in some way. Proposals spearheaded by consortia of science educators and organizations reaching underserved populations are encouraged.
Without limiting the creativity of potential proposals, we imagine that each award is likely to target a specific demographic, e.g., a historically black college/university (HBCU), a community center serving a rural or urban low-income neighborhood, a nursing home or facility for people with physical disabilities, or a Native American reservation.
Proposers who are not already engaged with URGs are strongly encouraged to build partnerships with local or national organizations that serve URGs in order to succeed in reaching and meaningfully engaging their audiences.
Emphasis should be placed on connecting the eclipse to underlying principles of physics and astronomy, the physics of the Sun, and Earth and space science.
General examples of the types of projects and activities that may be included in proposals:
- Scientific research and/or citizen science projects to be carried out during the eclipse.
- "Train the trainer" programs to support eager members of URGs in becoming role models who will spread passion for science and nature throughout their communities.
- Public education events, such as outreach programs at a public library, community center, or place of worship to prepare local communities for the total or partial eclipse (particularly programs that repeat, have an ongoing component for engagement, or involve something more than a single public lecture or presentation).
- Professional development for STEM educators or community leaders serving underserved communities in preparation for the eclipse.
- Workshops for local media to ensure the dissemination of accurate eclipse information, science, and safe-viewing instructions to the local community.
- Development of eclipse resources and materials, including apps, software, podcasts, and bilingual materials, designed to make the eclipse experience meaningful for diverse and underserved communities, e.g., women/girls, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and/or non-native English speakers. Proposers are encouraged to become familiar with what already exists in terms of eclipse education materials, so as not to engage in needless duplication. See, e.g., the materials available from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Exploratorium, and the National Science Teaching Association.
Specific examples of the types of projects and activities we would like to fund:
- Building Sun-Moon-Earth models to explain the geometry of eclipses at a Boys & Girls Club or similar afterschool program.
- Constructing pinhole projectors or other safe observing devices at a community center or similar venue.
- 3D printing tactile displays or assembling other assistive devices to enable blind and low-vision communities to experience the solar eclipse in meaningful ways.
- Engaging students to gather data on the behavior of animals, insects, birds, or flowering plants as the environment changes during the solar eclipse.
- Forging a partnership between a community center and an amateur-astronomy group to purchase solar telescopes and/or filters and build a sustained program beyond the April 2024 eclipse. Similar partnerships could be established between, e.g., planetariums and local Native American community organizers, or college professors and local African-American community leaders.
Funding for this program is provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Accordingly, grants may go only to organizations within the United States; we regret that organizations in U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and Guam are not eligible.
Proposals must come from nonprofit organizations (e.g., primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, public libraries, science centers and museums, community groups that have nonprofit status), not from for-profit entities or individuals working alone. Lead proposers (principal investigators, or PIs) need not be U.S. citizens as long as they work at a U.S. institution.
All projects must engage directly with the public in some way. Proposals to fund programs or activities for individuals or exclusively for members of the proposing organization(s) will not be considered.
Expenses for people to travel to the path of totality or to regions with better viewing conditions are excluded except in cases where the objective of the proposed project is to conduct eclipse-related scientific research.
Expenses for telescopes, solar filters, and other eclipse-related equipment are excluded except in cases where the proposal describes a plan to ensure the equipment’s continued use for education, public outreach, or scientific research in the community beyond the date of the eclipse. Expenses for computers, printers, and other general-purpose office equipment are excluded in all cases.
When possible, we expect proposal collaborations to include both scientific/educational organizations and URG community leaders, or at least to demonstrate verifiable plans to meaningfully engage URGs. Letters of commitment from partner organizations are required.
Proposals will be limited to two pages of descriptive text and two pages with an itemized budget and detailed budget justification.
The two-page description should include the proposers’ contact info (with clear indication of which of the participating groups is/are nonprofit), an explanation of the proposed activities and whom they will reach, and an assessment component that will capture the number of people reached as well as their demographic breakdown (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) and determine what was successful (or not). Letters of commitment from partner organizations do not count in the two-page limit.
Budgets cannot include salaries/wages or overhead, only direct costs. Every item listed in the budget should be accompanied by a clear justification of both the amount and the rationale for its inclusion.
Proposals should be submitted as a PDF or Word document attached to our online proposal form.
Complete proposals, including letters of support from partner organizations, must be submitted via our proposal webform by 5:00 pm Eastern time on Friday, November 10, 2023.
Proposers will be notified of a decision by Friday, December 15, 2023, and funds will be dispersed beginning in January 2024.
Proposals will be evaluated based on these criteria:
- Project goals are clearly articulated and align with mini-grant program goals.
- Project design is clearly described and connects to the project goals.
- Project uses exemplary practices, especially with respect to engaging URGs.
- Proposal includes a definition of success and a means to evaluate success.
- Collaborations are relevant and linked to project goals; letters of commitment are required from the lead institution's partner organizations.
- Budget is complete, cost-effective, and relevant to the goals, activities, and outcomes.
Reports from the PIs of all the funded proposals will be due by Friday, May 10, 2024. A template for the final report will be provided with the award notice.
In addition to the final report, all grantees will be required to complete an online webform from the AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force to provide quantitative and qualitative assessment data. Each funded project will be provided with a simple questionnaire for events to probe things such as participants' attitudes toward science before and after engagement in eclipse events, attitudes toward STEM careers among youth, or other questions that align with the mini-grant program's goals and the funded project’s goals.
We will also choose up to five funded projects for more in-depth follow-up by a professional evaluator. This inquiry will provide useful feedback on the effectiveness of various programs and activities and allow us to better interpret the results from the questionnaires used by all the successful proposers.
PIs or their designated representatives will be invited to attend the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, Wisconsin, in June 2024, to report on their projects to the wider astronomical community. Funding for PI travel to the AAS meeting will be provided separately from, and in addition to, the mini-grants themselves.
Any questions? Email us!
— The AAS Solar Eclipse Task Force