NASA is funding an NAU Center for Science Teaching and Learning proposal for creating curriculums and professional teacher development that focuses on planetary science concepts and skills in technology and engineering.

The collaborative Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering, Technology and Science program, or PLANETS, will receive nearly $3.4 million in funding over the next five years.

The program will offer opportunities for elementary and middle school students to explore planetary science questions and themes, while working on appropriate engineering challenges, and possibly inspire youth to pursue pathways toward careers in the STEM fields, according to Joelle Clark, associate director of NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning.

Three modules will be developed for use outside the classroom, including summer camps and weekend programs, and for use by youth organizations. The program’s other component is professional development modules, which may expand to reach an international audience.

“This is an amazing opportunity to continue to grow our professional development programs and our relationship with national researchers and curriculum developers,” said Clark, who noted the partnerships will serve as a model for future development. “It is part of the vision for NAU to be an international leader in science and STEM education.”

Collaborators on the PLANETS projects include the United States Geological Survey Astrogeology Science Center and the Museum of Science Boston.