Biography & Awards

Work History

Dennis Schatz recently joined the Institute of Learning Innovation after 43 years in various leadership positions at Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. He is currently the Retiring President of the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA), which involves a three-year commitment – President-elect in 2018-19; President in 2019-20, Retiring President in 2020-21. In addition, he is on the board of BSCS Science Learning and a technical advisor to the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC).  He also serves on the Science and Engineering Education Council of URSA (Universities Space Research Association).

He was the founding Field Editor of the journal, Connected Science Learning, which highlights links between in-school and out-of-school learning. The journal is a joint effort of NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) and ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers).

A research solar astronomer prior to his career in science education, he worked at the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, prior to moving to Seattle in 1977. At Pacific Science Center he has held a broad range of positions from Director of the Planetarium in his early years to VP for Exhibits and VP for Education to Senior VP in more recent years. From August 2010 to February 2011, he was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, followed by four years as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Professional Activities

He is part of the leadership group that developed an Informal STEM Learning Professional Competency Framework for informal science education (ISE) professionals that helps ISE practitioners better understand the knowledge, skill, behaviors and attitudes needed to be an effective ISE professional. The Framework is also useful for managers and supervisors as they provide professional development for their staffs and for professional development providers as they plan development activities.

He has provided leadership to several of Pacific Science Center's major initiatives, including Washington State LASER and Portal to the Public. He co-directed Washington State LASER (Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform), a program to implement a quality K-12 science program in all 295 school districts in Washington State.

The Portal to the Public effort is an initiative to develop programs - both onsite and off - that engage the public in understanding the current science research and its application conducted in our community. The first major Portal to the Public program was an NSF grant to develop and research effective models to engage the public in understanding current science research via face-to-face interactions with scientists. It was so successful that it has been expanded to 62 sites across the country and in Canada via funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), NSF, and fee-based workshops.

His involvement with Portal to the Public has resulted in his being involved in a number of other related NSF-funded projects:

Over his years at Pacific Science Center, he served as Principal Investigator for a number of National Science Foundation (NSF) projects, including the Science Center's innovative Community Leadership project that develops science advocates in community-based organizations, and the nationally touring exhibit, Aliens: Worlds of Possibilities, which explores the nature of the solar system and the search for extraterrestrial life in the galaxy.

He is active in ASTC, being a past member of its Program Committee, Professional Development Committee and past chair of its Education Committee, and its Leading Edge Awards Selection Committee. He is also active in NSTA, having been Program or General Chair for three of NSTA's Conventions, in addition to currently serving on its board of directors.

He has dedicated many years to identifying effective ways to teach astronomy concepts, especially through his involvement with the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), the largest international society dedicated to astronomy education in and out of school. He is a past board member and a past president of the ASP.


He has received numerous honors.  Most recently, Asteroid 25232 was renamed Asteroid Schatz in 2017 by the International Astronomical Union IAU) in recognition of his leadership in astronomy and science education.  He has received numerous awards from NSTA, including the 1996 Distinguished Informal Science Educator Award, NSTA's 2005 lifetime achievement award (Distinguished Service to Science Education). In 2009, he received NSTA’s Faraday Science Communicator Award. He joined an elite group of highly prestigious honorees, including the PBS series NOVA and NPR Science Correspondent Ira Flatow. In 2006, ASTC made him an ASTC Fellow for his lifetime achievement in service to the field and furthering the public's understanding of science. He is only one of 24 ASTC Fellows awarded in the history of ASTC and the only non-CEO or public official to receive the award. He received the 2014 Klumpke-Roberts Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. Past awardees include stellar astronomy communicators, such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Timothy Ferris and Dava Sobel. In 2015, he was designated a Sydney University International House Fellow for his long-term involvement in International House activities.  He is only one of three people from outside Australia to receive the award in the 50-year history of International House.

Author Activities

He is the author of 26 science books for children, including Explore A T.rex, the Fossil Detective series of four books and the popular Totally series of six books (Totally Dinosaurs in 2000 to Totally Sea Creatures in 2003). His most recent children’s books are The Amazing Squishy T.rex, and When the Sun Goes Dark, which was released just in time for the 2017 total solar eclipse. His books have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide and have been translated into as many as 23 languages. His Uncover A T.rex book was a 2003 Parents Choice Award Winner, and his Fossil Detective Woolly Mammoth received a 2006 iParenting Media award. He is also co-author/editor of several curriculum resources for teachers, including Astro-Adventures, Universe At Your Fingertips and More Universe At Your Fingertips.  His most recent teacher resource book, Solar Science, is published by NSTA and included an Eclipse Observing Guide for the “All-American” total solar eclipse in 2017.