Math and science teachers of all levels can use the Jet Propulsion Laboratory site to find real-world ways to apply content. These lessons are best used when woven into an existing curriculum, though. Teachers might use images, video clips, or data as driving phenomena to start a lesson or a unit. For example, physics teachers might start by playing the simulation from "Lets Go to Mars! Calculating Launch Windows." They could challenge kids to find the most efficient launch opportunity for a spacecraft headed to Mars. This puzzle gives a reason for students to learn Kepler's second law and provides meaning to physics concepts. Since the activities themselves could be challenging for students to follow on their own, it'd be best if teachers reviewed the materials and then reworked and adapted them for in-class or remote -- and teacher-guided -- instruction.
Most tools are easy to open or download. There are some interactives linked to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that require students to download a separate app called NASA's Eyes. A few activities require Flash Player.Continue reading Show less
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a national research facility that carries out robotic space and Earth science missions. The education section of the site features free lessons for teachers to use with their classes alongside projects for students to try from home. The broader JPL site also has articles, data, imagery, and video about JPL and NASA experiments, missions, and projects. The math and science tasks match with students ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade. For instance, kids can use geometric tangrams to design rocket ships or do an experiment to see if melting land ice or sea ice contributes to global sea level rise. Additionally, there are fun, more crafty activities like making a paper Mars rover or baking sunspot cookies.
Teachers can also use the site to find out about events and contests as well as news on NASA and JPL missions, discoveries, and more.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) lessons allow students to engage in NGSS Science and Engineering Practices by analyzing real NASA data. In one lesson, students track water mass changes using heat map data from NASA's GRACE satellites. Then the lesson integrates math and science skills, asking students to estimate, create a line graph, assess trends, and discuss implications. What's great about this is how it combines real data analysis with authentic tasks that get students using data and then drawing conclusions from that data.
Some activities, like baking sunspot cookies, focus more on fun than on learning. However, even within some of these less academic tasks, it's clear that JPL has worked to balance engaging students and creating deep learning. For example, the JPL version of the classic "Make a Volcano" with baking soda is heavier on science than similar tasks on sites like Weather Wiz Kids. JPL has students graph how lava flows each time and then use play dough to build layers over time with multiple eruptions. It's in these tasks -- that take the inherent engagement of creation and fuse it with manipulation and use of real data -- that JPL shines.
The content can be uneven, but overall it's strong and has a great basis of data that'll absorb students and help them see how science and math are instrumental to space exploration. The big downfall with the JPL site is that teachers will need to do some digging to find the standout resources, since the quality isn't consistent. They'll also need to work to adapt the activities for classroom use, since they're structured as menu-driven articles with images and videos embedded. This format won't work great for all students, and would benefit from teacher-guided adaptation and instruction.
Key Standards Supported
Expressing Geometric Properties With Equations
Use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems algebraically. For example, prove or disprove that a figure defined by four given points in the coordinate plane is a rectangle; prove or disprove that the point (1, √3) lies on the circle centered at the origin and containing the point (0, 2).
Prove the slope criteria for parallel and perpendicular lines and use them to solve geometric problems (e.g., find the equation of a line parallel or perpendicular to a given line that passes through a given point).
Find the point on a directed line segment between two given points that partitions the segment in a given ratio.
Use coordinates to compute perimeters of polygons and areas of triangles and rectangles, e.g., using the distance formula.
Geometric Measurement And Dimension
Identify the shapes of two-dimensional cross-sections of three- dimensional objects, and identify three-dimensional objects generated by rotations of two-dimensional objects.
Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.
Correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size.
Identify shapes as two-dimensional (lying in a plane, “flat”) or three- dimensional (“solid”).
Distinguish between defining attributes (e.g., triangles are closed and three-sided) versus non-defining attributes (e.g., color, orientation, overall size); build and draw shapes to possess defining attributes.
Compose two-dimensional shapes (rectangles, squares, trapezoids, triangles, half-circles, and quarter-circles) or three-dimensional shapes (cubes, right rectangular prisms, right circular cones, and right circular cylinders) to create a composite shape, and compose new shapes from the composite shape.4
Partition circles and rectangles into two and four equal shares, describe the shares using the words halves, fourths, and quarters, and use the phrases half of, fourth of, and quarter of. Describe the whole as two of, or four of the shares. Understand for these examples that decomposing into more equal shares creates smaller shares.
Recognize and draw shapes having specified attributes, such as a given number of angles or a given number of equal faces.5 Identify triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons, and cubes.
Partition a rectangle into rows and columns of same-size squares and count to find the total number of them.
Partition circles and rectangles into two, three, or four equal shares, describe the shares using the words halves, thirds, half of, a third of, etc., and describe the whole as two halves, three thirds, four fourths. Recognize that equal shares of identical wholes need not have the same shape.
Understand that shapes in different categories (e.g., rhombuses, rectangles, and others) may share attributes (e.g., having four sides), and that the shared attributes can define a larger category (e.g., quadrilaterals). Recognize rhombuses, rectangles, and squares as examples of quadrilaterals, and draw examples of quadrilaterals that do not belong to any of these subcategories.
Partition shapes into parts with equal areas. Express the area of each part as a unit fraction of the whole. For example, partition a shape into 4 parts with equal area, and describe the area of each part as 1/4 of the area of the shape.
Represent real world and mathematical problems by graphing points in the first quadrant of the coordinate plane, and interpret coordinate values of points in the context of the situation.
Modeling With Geometry
Use geometric shapes, their measures, and their properties to describe objects (e.g., modeling a tree trunk or a human torso as a cylinder).
Apply concepts of density based on area and volume in modeling situations (e.g., persons per square mile, BTUs per cubic foot).
Apply geometric methods to solve design problems (e.g., designing an object or structure to satisfy physical constraints or minimize cost; working with typographic grid systems based on ratios).
Reasoning With Equations And Inequalities
Understand that the graph of an equation in two variables is the set of all its solutions plotted in the coordinate plane, often forming a curve (which could be a line).
Explain why the x-coordinates of the points where the graphs of the equations y = f(x) and y = g(x) intersect are the solutions of the equation f(x) = g(x); find the solutions approximately, e.g., using technology to graph the functions, make tables of values, or find successive approximations. Include cases where f(x) and/or g(x) are linear, polynomial, rational, absolute value, exponential, and logarithmic functions.
Graph the solutions to a linear inequality in two variables as a half- plane (excluding the boundary in the case of a strict inequality), and graph the solution set to a system of linear inequalities in two variables as the intersection of the corresponding half-planes.
Statistics And Probability
Construct and interpret scatter plots for bivariate measurement data to investigate patterns of association between two quantities. Describe patterns such as clustering, outliers, positive or negative association, linear association, and nonlinear association.
Know that straight lines are widely used to model relationships between two quantitative variables. For scatter plots that suggest a linear association, informally fit a straight line, and informally assess the model fit by judging the closeness of the data points to the line.
Key Standards Supported
Earth and Human Activity
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth’s mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes.
Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.
Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
Earth’s Place in the Universe
Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.
Make observations at different times of year to relate the amount of daylight to the time of year.
Use information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly.
Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.
Support an argument that differences in the apparent brightness of the sun compared to other stars is due to their relative distances from Earth.
Represent data in graphical displays to reveal patterns of daily changes in length and direction of shadows, day and night, and the seasonal appearance of some stars in the night sky.
Develop and use a model of the Earth-sun-moon system to describe the cyclic patterns of lunar phases, eclipses of the sun and moon, and seasons.
Develop and use a model to describe the role of gravity in the motions within galaxies and the solar system.
Analyze and interpret data to determine scale properties of objects in the solar system.
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence from rock strata for how the geologic time scale is used to organize Earth’s 4.6-billion-year-old history.
Develop a model based on evidence to illustrate the life span of the sun and the role of nuclear fusion in the sun’s core to release energy that eventually reaches Earth in the form of radiation.
Construct an explanation of the Big Bang theory based on astronomical evidence of light spectra, motion of distant galaxies, and composition of matter in the universe.
Communicate scientific ideas about the way stars, over their life cycle, produce elements.
Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.
Evaluate evidence of the past and current movements of continental and oceanic crust and the theory of plate tectonics to explain the ages of crustal rocks.
Apply scientific reasoning and evidence from ancient Earth materials, meteorites, and other planetary surfaces to construct an account of Earth’s formation and early history.
Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.
Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features.
Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.
Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Plan and carry out fair tests in which variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify aspects of a model or prototype that can be improved.
Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.
Develop a simple sketch, drawing, or physical model to illustrate how the shape of an object helps it function as needed to solve a given problem.
Analyze data from tests of two objects designed to solve the same problem to compare the strengths and weaknesses of how each performs.
Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.
Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.
Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
Analyze a major global challenge to specify qualitative and quantitative criteria and constraints for solutions that account for societal needs and wants.
Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.
Evaluate a solution to a complex real-world problem based on prioritized criteria and trade-offs that account for a range of constraints, including cost, safety, reliability, and aesthetics, as well as possible social, cultural, and environmental impacts.
Use a computer simulation to model the impact of proposed solutions to a complex real-world problem with numerous criteria and constraints on interactions within and between systems relevant to the problem.
Motion and Stability: Forces and Interactions
Apply Newton’s Third Law to design a solution to a problem involving the motion of two colliding objects.
Analyze data to support the claim that Newton’s second law of motion describes the mathematical relationship among the net force on a macroscopic object, its mass, and its acceleration.
Apply scientific and engineering ideas to design, evaluate, and refine a device that minimizes the force on a macroscopic object during a collision.
Waves and Their Applications in Technologies for Information Transfer
Use mathematical representations to describe a simple model for waves that includes how the amplitude of a wave is related to the energy in a wave.
Develop and use a model to describe that waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.
Integrate qualitative scientific and technical information to support the claim that digitized signals are a more reliable way to encode and transmit information than analog signals.
Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling in various media.
Evaluate questions about the advantages of using a digital transmission and storage of information.
Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind the idea that electromagnetic radiation can be described either by a wave model or a particle model, and that for some situations one model is more useful than the other.
Evaluate the validity and reliability of claims in published materials of the effects that different frequencies of electromagnetic radiation have when absorbed by matter.
Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy.
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