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JAN.12, 2024— Palmyra-Macedon High School earth science teacher Joe Perry is preparing for an experience out of this world. He is one of only a few who get to do it.

The NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP) announced Perry as a member of the 2024 class of educators.

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) oversees NITARP, with funding from NASA’s Astrophysics Data Program.

Perry will work  with a small group of high school educators and a professional astronomer for an original research project. He will then use parts of the project to include in his classroom to share with students.

He will also select up to four high school juniors to join him in the research and presentation of the project.

The announcement was made during the Winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in New Orleans, LA. Perry attended the conference.

Perry applied for the program in September 2023.

His group, which he officially met at the conference, includes teachers from Dalton, MA, Waco, TX, and Downs, IL.

“I’m all in,” Perry said. “It’s exciting, sharing the love for astronomy and data.”


Perry (left, with hat) pictured with fellow educators at the American Astronomical Society (Courtesy Dr. Luisa Rebull)


Perry’s group will look at archival data from several infrared space telescopes. The research will focus on protostars, very young stars that have not fully developed yet.

The selected students will learn how a protostar develops, how to track it, and what its development means for planets. Pal-Mac students will interact with the students at the other high schools.

Students will travel with Perry to the CalTech campus in July of this year.

Perry says prep work is already underway, but a majority of the research will be done from July through October of this year.

He says he will incorporate some of the data from the team’s research into his astronomy classes.

A 25+ year science teacher at Pal-Mac, Perry is known for his efforts to provide hands-on learning experiences for his students. This includes regular trips to Chimney Bluffs and Letchworth State Parks. He has also taken students as far as Grand Canyon National Park in Nevada. 

Perry has attended several scientific conferences and experiences, including spending part of his Summer on a research trip across Lake Ontario.

He was named the 2023 Outstanding Earth Science Teacher for New York State by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) for his efforts.

Perry says exposing students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through a research lens provides a “real citizen science” experience.

“It’s great to be able to talk about it,” Perry said. “But I get my thrill, I get my educational reinvigoration from seeing it through a student’s eyes.” 

Teams will present their research results at the 2025 AAS winter meeting, which is scheduled to be held in the Washington, D.C. area.

Perry says he is working on the student selection process. Updates will be announced down the road.

Pal-Mac Superintendent Dr. Bob Ike said:

"We would like to congratulate Mr.Perry on this prestigious selection. We're also excited for the opportunity for some of our students to get involved in such a wonderful educational opportunity."

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