Jet Propulsion Laboratory Product Review
Teachers can also use the site to learn about events and contests as well as missions, NASA and JPL discoveries, and more.
Math and science teachers of all levels can use the Jet Propulsion Laboratory site to find real-world ways to apply the content. However, these lessons are best used when incorporated into an existing program. Teachers can use images, video clips, or data as motor phenomena to begin a lesson or unit. For example, physics teachers could start by playing the simulation of “Lets Go to Mars!” Calculation of launch windows. They could challenge kids to find the most efficient launch opportunity for a spacecraft heading to Mars. This puzzle gives learners a reason to learn Kepler’s second law and makes sense of physics concepts. Since the activities themselves can be difficult for learners to follow on their own, it would be best for educators to review the material, then rework it and adapt it for classroom or distance learning – and guided by the teacher.
Most tools are easy to open or download. Some interactive activities related to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory require learners to download a separate app called NASA’s Eyes. Some activities require Flash Player.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) lessons allow learners to engage in NGSS science and engineering practices by analyzing real NASA data. In one lesson, learners track changes in water mass using heatmap data from NASA’s GRACE satellites. Then the lesson integrates math and science skills, asking learners to estimate, create a line graph, assess trends and discuss implications. What’s great is that it combines real data analysis with authentic tasks that allow learners to use data and draw conclusions from that data.
Some activities, like baking sunspot cookies, are more about fun than learning. However, even in some of these less academic tasks, it is clear that JPL has worked to balance learner engagement and creating deep learning. For example, JPL’s version of the classic “Make a Volcano” with baking soda is heavier on the science than similar tasks on sites like Weather Wiz Kids. JPL asks learners to graph the flow of lava each time, then use modeling clay to create layers over time with multiple eruptions. It is in these tasks – which take the inherent engagement of creation and merge it with the manipulation and use of real data – that JPL shines.
The content may be uneven, but overall it’s solid and has a great database that will absorb learners and help them see how science and math are essential to space exploration. The big problem with the JPL site is that educators will have to do some research to find the most outstanding resources, as the quality is not consistent. They will also need to work to adapt the activities for classroom use, as they are structured as menu-driven articles with embedded images and videos. This format will not work very well for all learners and would benefit from teacher-guided adaptation and instruction.
Overall user consensus on the app
The activities will appeal to everyone, but especially to learners who love space. The site can be a bit heavy for educators, but the activities are well laid out.
Curriculum and Education
Through the projects, learners discover how NASA uses science and math. Learners also have the opportunity to understand and use NASA data on their own.
NASA has a variety of linked sites with even more resources. The linked YouTube videos have English and Spanish subtitles. The website is designed in an accessible manner.