Educators can also use the site to learn about events and competitions as well as news related to NASA and JPL missions, discoveries, and more.
Math and science educators of all levels can use the JPL website to find realistic ways to apply content. These lessons are best used when incorporated into an existing curriculum. Teachers may use images, videos, or data as motivational phenomena to begin a lesson or unit. For example, physics teachers might start by playing a simulation of “Lets Go to Mars! Calculating Starting Windows.” They can challenge kids to find the most effective launch opportunity for a spacecraft bound for Mars. This puzzle gives learners a reason to learn Kepler’s second law and provides meaning for physics concepts. Since the activities themselves may be challenging for learners to follow on their own, it is best for teachers to review and then reformulate and adapt the materials for in-class or remote – and teacher-guided – instructions.
Most of the tools are easy to open or download. There are some JPL-related interactions that require learners to download a separate app called NASA Eyes. Some activities require Flash Player.
JPL lessons allow learners to engage in NGSS science and engineering practices by analyzing real NASA data. In one lesson, learners track water mass changes using heat map data from NASA’s GRACE satellites. The lesson then integrates math and science skills, and asks learners to estimate and create a line graph, evaluate trends, and discuss implications. What’s great about this is how it combines real data analysis with real tasks that get learners to use the data and then draw conclusions from that data.
Some activities, such as sunspot baking, focus more on fun than learning. However, even within some of these lower academic assignments, it is clear that JPL has worked to strike a balance between engaging learners and creating deep learning. For example, the JPL version of the classic “Make a Volcano” with baking soda is heavier in science than similar tasks on sites like Weather Wiz Kids. JPL has learners graph how lava flows each time and then use play dough to build layers over time with multiple eruptions. JPL shines in these missions – which take the inherent involvement of creation and combine it with the manipulation and use of real data.
The content can be uneven, but overall it is powerful and has a large data base that will absorb learners and help them see how science and mathematics are useful in space exploration. The big drawback of the JPL website is that educators will need to do some digging to find the premium resources, since the quality is not consistent. They will also need to work on adapting the activities for use in the classroom, since they are organized as list-based articles with images and videos included. This format will not work great for all learners, and will benefit from teacher-guided conditioning and guidance.
General user consensus about the app
The activities will appeal to everyone, but specifically to the space-loving learners. The site might be a little stressful for the teachers, but the activities are well planned.
Curriculum and Instruction
Through projects, learners experience how NASA uses science and mathematics. Learners also have opportunities to understand and use NASA data for themselves.
NASA has a variety of sites linked to more resources. The linked YouTube videos have English and Spanish subtitles. The site is designed with ease.