K-20 Education Programs


K-12 Education Programs & Classroom Resources

NIA’s Center for Integrative STEM Education (CISE) includes award-winning STEM Education Specialists, community-based Educators-in-Residence and project managers who specialize in the creative and effective use of emerging technology to bring STEM alive in the classroom.

The team focuses on the K-12 portion of the educational outreach continuum providing:

  • teacher professional learning experiences;
  • national engagement programs;
  • digital learning and collaboration;
  • resources for both formal and out-of-school learning settings; and
  • curriculum design.

Using research-driven best practices, the Center and its partners advocate for leading-edge approaches to teaching and learning that inspire and engage the next generation preparing for the STEM workforce.

Formal and Informal Education Programs

City lights in the US seen from space

Using leading edge strategies and a variety of media and format, CISE develops STEM resources that build authentic and real-world connections to standards-based curriculum. Signature programs include NASA eClips™, NASA OPSPARC, and McDaniel College’s STEM Instructional Leadership graduate program.

NASA eClips logo

NASA eClips™ is an award-winning educational program that provides short, relevant educati onal video and supporting resources for K-12 educators and students. These resources offer unlimited flexibility for formal and nonformal sequencing and pacing as they inspire and engage students by helping them see real-world connections to STEM education. The NASA eClips video segments, educator guides, online teacher tools, and links to other approved NASA resources are aligned to national educational standards, including Next Generation Science Standardsand Common Core State Standards for Math.

The NASA Spotlites Design Challenge, within the NASA eClips suite of resources, places students as content creators to develop short videos to confront nationally recognized science misconceptions.  Students, in a variety of educational settings, produce the videos from script to screen. Exemplary student-produced videos, following NASA review and approval, are added to the NASA eClips library.

CISE also designs and implements professional development for pre-service and in-service teachers. The Center continues to coordinate and facilitate courses within the McDaniel College STEM Instructional Leadership Program (SIL). This program was developed collaboratively wi th McDaniel. Educators who complete the SIL program earn a McDaniel post-baccalaureate certificate and, for Maryland teachers, an endorsement in Leadership: PK-6 STEM. Course design follows research-based best practice incorporating active learning, job-embedded tasks, on-going and sustainable support, and reflective feedback.  The courses can be delivered as hybrids or completely online and have also been modified for delivery for school-based professional learning communities.

The NIAUniverse, hosted by NIA, brings students, educators, and experts together without the barrier of time or distance. This physics-based 3D gaming platform supports students’ use of cutting-edge digital tools to collaborate and explore engineering design. The result is a collection of student-produced virtual worlds created through interactive real-time collaborations with mentors and NASA and industry experts. Currently, NIAUniverse is the setting for virtual mentorships between secondary and college students for the NASA OPTIMUS PRIME Spinoff Promotion and Research Challenge (NASA OPSPARC)This space provides the setting for secondary students to showcase advanced engineering skills developed in collaboration with college engineering mentors.


NIA has developed several Educator-in-Residence (EIR) community-based partnerships to increase STEM literacy and build a foundational and coherent STEM approach to learning for the participating school districts. 

EIRs work side-by-side with CISE STEM Education Specialists to engage students and teachers. They build and implement best practice STEM resources, outreach experiences, and professional learning experiences.

This work creates a bridge between CISE and the community as EIR serve as active liaisons between the national STEM education community and their local school system. These positions infuse STEM pedagogies and NASA resources into instruction and curriculum, increasing authentic real-world connections to studentlearning. This work is funded by the school districts as an extended collaborative professional development experience to increase the school system’s STEM instructional leadership capacity.

For more information, contact  Shelley Spears, Director of Educational Outreach at NIA, at shelley.spears@nianet.org  or (757) 325-6732 or Sharon Bowers, Senior STEM Education Specialist and Associate Director for CISE, sharon.bowers@nianet.org or (757) 325-6870.


Program Director

Shelley Spears

Director of Educational Outreach and Programs
National Institute of Aerospace

✉️  shelley.spears@nianet.org

(757) 325-6732

Associate Director, CISE

Sharon Bowers

Senior STEM Education Specialist
National Institute of Aerospace

✉️ sharon.bowers@nianet.org

(757) 325-6870