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 significance.
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.
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 Magneticspace Caf.
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.