Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission launch March 12 provides an
unprecedented opportunity to bring ISTE Standards-ready, hands-on science
activities related to the mission to classrooms.
The MMS mission will study the mystery of how magnetic fields around Earth
connect and disconnect, explosively releasing energy via a process called
magnetic reconnection. Using four identical spacecraft, the mission will provide
the first three-dimensional view of this fundamental process that occurs
throughout the universe.
If that explanation already has you Googling a simple translation, don’t
worry. ISTE, in collaboration with NASA, has created a host of free resources to
help teachers engage students in research and engineering-design activities,
seamlessly connecting them to authentic scientific study with real-world
The NASA-created student activity book iMAGINETICspace is a challenge-based
resource that allows students to join Mark, a fictional student, on his journey
to become a junior researcher.
Using the activity book, students will learn about, and experiment with,
electricity and magnetism. The activity book also provides design challenges to
help students understand the complexities of assembling a space mission, data
collection and space weather’s impact on Earth.
Science and Math Professional Learning Network leaders Ben Smith and Jared
Mader have put together a teacher’s guide to curriculum and activities related
to the mission. The guide includes videos that walk teachers through science
experiments from the book and other digital age activities linked to ISTE Standards.
For example, Smith and Mader created an activity that uses cartooning or
digital storytelling to complete a lab report.
The materials for teachers also include connections to career information and
related NASA resources for extension activities.
The guide provides teachers with the vernacular to include in their lesson
plans and helps them make the connections to STEM skills needed for hands-on
learning. The teacher resources are scaled from beginner to expert and can be
used by science teachers and those who may not teach science every day.
Mader noted that the teacher’s guide turns the typical science textbook model
upside down. “Textbooks are often designed with science concepts over 27 pages
and then the real-life example is only one page. This flips that model so
students are learning about the NASA mission, the science of the mission and
throughout the process they are learning the science concepts. We’re trying to
give kids an authentic science experience.”
NASA is also offering its own resource, the MMS Launch
Party Kit, to help teachers plan a launch party that includes decorations,
hands-on activities and information on how to watch the live launch. Educators
can receive updates on new resources, ask questions and connect with other space
fans by joining the online group MMS
Coming this spring, Mader and Smith will release a second set of resources
for students and teachers related to the NASA mission that will focus on
computational thinking. This second set of materials teams Mark with another
budding young scientist. As the two collaborate to become citizen scientists,
they will conduct experiments, collect data, share their data with others and
attempt to interpret the data – all best practices in the science community.
Mader and Smith are developing both the student activity guide and the
teachers’ guide for the computational thinking follow-up.