Excellence in Earth and Space Science Education Award

Sheri Klug Boonstra

Arizona State University




Sheri Klug Boonstra has been a leader and innovator in Earth and space sciences education—especially where Mars is concerned—for decades.Throughout her career, she has created award-winning ways to use authentic planetary science data in classrooms via the Mars Student Imaging Project(MSIP) and has provided professional development experiences for educators thatintegrate scientists and the latest research with pedagogical excellence.She has created numerous curricula, always hands-on, mindson, and standardsbased.Most recently, her vision and hard work have come together into an online academy called L’SPACE (Lucy Student Pipeline Accelerator and Competency Enabler), which embodies the reality behind the process of planning and building planetary science missions. L’SPACE uses actual high-value science targets from NASA to drive student projects to inform the engineering mission design. She also cocreated and coinstructs the expansive undergraduate set of courses called Space Works at Arizona State University.Both of these experiences cultivate 21st century skills for the next generation of explorers and provides them the mentorship needed to succeed.


Sheri is 100% committed to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematicsequity and diversity and always walks the talk.She has been invited to bring her programs to many STEM-neglected communities, including rural, Native American, and Latinx. She instituted an underserved-focused skill-building internship program as part of L’SPACE and has achieved 40% minority and 40% female participation in their first 15 months of programming. Throughout her career she has kept her finger on the pulse of educational research and best practices; because of that, she continues to find herself on the leading edge of trends.

Sheri is in close touch with the needs and realities of the educators and learners she serves and has designed and delivered all her products and programs from their perspective. It is the same now with the undergrads she is working with in L’SPACE and Space Works.She is deeply listening and hearing what they need in order to see themselves in this career path and centers them in her workforce development conversations and efforts, which is, without a doubt, the best practice in STEM equity. 

From her beginnings as a classroom teacher in rural Idaho, to putting the power to direct an instrument orbiting Mars in the hands of K12 students, to her workforce development efforts at the university level, Sheri has made a lasting impact on all kinds of learners over the course of her career. She has balanced touching individual lives with influencing policy and best practices. Her work is expansive and multifaceted, and the places where she has infused her considerable passion and energy have grown like wildflowers in a summer meadow. 

Daniella ScaliceNASA Astrobiology Program, Ames Research CenterMoffett Field, CA

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It is a humbling honor to have been awarded the AGU 2020 Excellence in Earth and Space Science Education Award. I would like to thank AGU, my AGU colleagues, and those who wrote the recommendationsDaniella Scalice, Phil Christensen, Michael Meyer, and Orlando Figueroafor their kindness.

My love for science, space, and education has always been deeply rooted in my life. Throughout the past 25 years, my passion for making science discovery and learning available to all, regardless of their location, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or education preparation, grew to become my life’s calling. Being able to reach beyond geographical boundaries to spread the wonder of the natural world to all those interested helped shape my understanding of how learning science could be reimagined. The Mars Student Imaging Project (MSIP), using Phil Christensen’s THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System) camera orbiting Mars, provided transformational deep STEM research experiences for 80,000+ students in fifth grade through early college. Many thanks to the Mars Program and Mars Odyssey Team for the long-term support of MSIP that made the transformational student learning possible. 

I have been privileged to collaborate with a great number of talented people over the years. Defining, long-term partnerships with people and organizations in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) and the Navajo Nation guided essential understandings and efforts by listening to and working with communities of color to inform us what their audience needs are and how best we can partner with them to achieve their learning goals. Many thanks to Daniella Scalice for leading the NASA and the Navajo NationPrograms, allowing me to work with her and learn from the Diné elders and medicine people within the Navajo Nation. Thank you also to the Texas Valley Communities Foundation and especially Dann Garcia for the 15 years of partnership and mentoring while serving the Hispanic communities in the RGV.

Finally, in the latest chapter of my life, I wish to thank the Lucy Mission Team and NASA Science Mission Directoratefor supporting a new type of student collaboration projectthe Lucy Student PipelineAccelerator and Competency Enabler (L’SPACE) Program. At the core of this program, undergraduate students learn how to work together on virtual teams, embracing diversity and innovation. This NASA workforce development program has already impacted the futures of thousands of students as they gain skills and competencies that will empower them to shape the future of exploration and meet the challenges facing this planet.

Sheri Klug Boonstra, Arizona State UniversityTempe