Recognizing the importance of K-12 education as essential to the pathway to STEM careers, in November 2005, Congress required NSF to initiate a K-8 demonstration program “ … to provide seed money for new projects with the goal of increasing the pool of individuals pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers through programs that catalyze and maintain interest of K-8 students in math[ematics] and science.” It asked that the projects stimulate interest and provide exciting, but challenging education experiences in mathematics and science that are continuous and seamless from initial contact and throughout high school, and that each project involve sustainable coalitions of industry/business, colleges of education, and educational agencies.” (House Report 109-272.) The National Science Foundation is directly responding to House Report 109-272 through the development of NSF Academies for Young Scientists (NSFAYS).
COMmunities Educating Tomorrow's Scientists (COMETS) is a NSFAYS program to implement an earth and space science program with the focus of learning science as inquiry. COMETS targets 200 low-income, underrepresented and minority students at four community centers in Charleston and Dunbar, WV for inclusion in a NASA-centered informal science education program. Through innovative hands-on investigations coordinated with students' formal curricula this program will excite, inspire, promote academic achievement and expand regular school time learning experiences for students in grades 3-5.