- Peer Review: Reading, Writing and Rings: The Cassini Mission Literacy Program
Reading, Writing and Rings: The Cassini Mission Literacy Program
- Jul 1, 2008 by Teacher Education
- This mission is actually a mission between three different space agencies: JPL/NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency (ISA). The main scientific goals include measuring Saturn's huge magnetosphere, analyzing from up close those stunning rings and studying Saturn's composition and atmosphere. Other goals include in-depth study of the moons of Saturn, especially the moon known as Titan. This Cassini-Huygens mission offers an extensive formal education program for students in grades K-12. Students at all grade levels are engaged in learning about Saturn and the Cassini Mission. With the Reading, Writing, and Rings Program, NASA is attempting to meet the needs of all learners, including strategies for basic awareness, qualitative and analytical interactions, and finally, in-depth investigative thinking.
- Type of Material:
- This material has qualities that resemble both reference materials and collections. As a reference material, the material provides real data and rich, authentic imagery. As a collection, this material is multi-faceted and actually breaks down very well. From the website (as this material is based from a website), we have links to different areas such as K-4, 5-8, 9-12, classroom materials, and a "scientist for a day" opportunity. Perhaps the most interesting (and highly effective) element is the "best practices" upload area. Teachers can send their classroom-tested material here!
- Recommended Uses:
- A lesson plan resource for educators interested in cross-disciplinary activities especially related to language arts and science content.
- Technical Requirements:
- Participants will need to be able to download and view images. Streaming video capabilities will be needed (so watch the firewalls). For the regular video, Java, Quicktime, WMP are among some of the plug-ins you might need. Site should work with Windows XP and Vista. IE version 7 works with this site. For Mac users, MAC OS-X (Tiger or Leopard) works. Use Safari, Camino, and/or Mozilla Firefox (current versions) as all appear to function without any problems.
- Identify Major Learning Goals:
- There are goals for multiple grade levels but NASA will tell us that the main goal (at least for elementary grades) is to engage students in reading and writing to strengthen these basic academic skills through scientific content. The concept of "scientific discovery" is another serious factor behind this material. Also, at least for grades K-4, NASA states an intention to foster good use of academic language within science content. For the grades 5-8, the material is very specific with its goal. It states it as "Scientific engagement is the focus of the Cassini 5-8 Program. Lessons incorporate an interdisciplinary hands-on approach to science learning in the middle grades." For the grades 9-12, we have a shift in the presentation of the content. The material presents the levels as novice (students will observe and gain comprehension using units created for the program). The it presents apprentice (students will learn methods of analysis and practice application on simulated data sets). And finally it presents the journey-person level (students will participate in in-depth data analysis of real mission data in partnership with Cassini mission scientists).
- Target Student Population:
- All ages inclusive to grades kindergarten through 12th grade.
- Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
- Participants should also be able to install necessary plug-ins for any video viewing and they (meaning the teachers) should also be able to trouble-shoot streaming/firewall issues that might come up.
- This material is at the cutting edge of the dilemma that teachers face daily (which is the ability to integrate Science into the curriculum). The material is designed to foster the learning of valid and current concepts. It is designed to engage students with real-time, current, and meaningful data and images.No doubt this material presents an immense amount of significant information. Strengths should include attributes such as the real data, current images, scientist support, multimedia library, best-practice upload/dissemination area, and supporting outside links to more collections of relevant material. The core curriculum presence is a valid claim throughout the material. Core concepts include reading, writing, vocabulary, and especially science. The site does a great job providing pre-requisite opportunities for learning as in the content area designed for K-2. Supporting imagery from teachers that have used the material are a plus to the new users of this content. The advanced learning area (9-12) does well as it also breaks the content/learning opportunities down for different levels and learning styles. The content is also tied to the National Standards and appears to be easily adopted to state-specific standards. There are no indications of "specifically difficult" material noted. However, there appears to be support in place to handle any issues (the site has a web-master and is updated regularly).
- One concern is the fate of the content once the Cassini mission has come to its end. Questions/concerns include whether the content will be archived and still available for use.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
- Objectives are clear for all grade levels K-12. The fundamental goal is to increase proficiency in reading and writing through the medium of science. Students are exploring the science of NASA while they increase their skills in reading and writing. At the middle school level, we have a number of kinesthetic activities designed to enrich the learning/teaching opportunity via a series of hands-on activities that were in part, designed by classroom teachers. These opportunities include the GAVRT Program where students can perform actual radio astronomy experiments, truly engaging in revolutionary scientific discovery. At the 9-12 grade level, the students will engage in meaningful scientific investigation of collected, scientific data. As an outcome, students in the K-12 grades should at least be able to read and write better through the investigative activities within the content area of Science. Reading, Writing, Science, Use of Technology, Collaboration, Evaluation, and more as students are dealing with this learning material. All facets of the learning cycle appear to be covered with this material. Participants will be ENGAGED as this material generates curiosity and creates interest. Students will be able to EXPLORE the material and follow the links, find relevant information, pose questions, and make observations of regarding their findings. Students can then EXPLAIN what they found within the material and then provide evidence (for clarification). Students can use the material to EXTEND the learning process to new ideas/possibilities/problems. This can be done via other websites and other resources. Finally (for the learning process) students can EVALUATE their own learning, change/modify previous predictions, and then ask open-ended questions in order to continue the process of inquiry. Target learners should develop their own capacities for inquiry and scientific exploration. Such learners should focus not only on the unanswered questions, but on the unasked questions. This material may not improve teaching/learning capabilities, but it is designed in a manner that causes it to be an integral part of learning in an integrated science/reading/writing classroom. This material is already integrated across the curriculum. This is specific to the content areas of Science and Language Arts. Another plus is the flavor-added technology. This helps the content in its delivery to learners that are already used to the implementation of technology in their everyday lives. In order to achieve the stated goals, the material is delivered and interacted with an a visual and kinesthetic manner. Image and data rich material is presented along with the means to deliver the material/content. Teaching and learning goals are specific to the grade levels and are clearly defined within each section (as previously discussed). Good learning assignments can be written with relative ease. There is enough material in the resource to support reading, writing, and scientific inquiry. Image-based and data-heavy sets of information are significant and can be effective for all learners/teachers.
- The only consideration that could be a drawback relates to the Standards that are listed. NCST and National Standards are provided in brief context for each lesson, but they do not provide the numerical guideline, only the narrative title of the Standard being addressed. This might require that the teacher find the numbers on their own, if this is required for lesson implementation in their district.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
- Ease of use seems apparent for all levels of computer users. The website has an introduction and then does break down the material into different grade levels. This helps to make the material more manageable. All buttons and general layouts are easy to follow. The use of color helps and the content is presented in an easy to follow "paragraph-style". The feedback provided can only be measured through the teacher "best-practice" upload area. The site does not appear to require a lot of technical support in order for interaction to be successful. The information is presented in a familiar manner as most will agree that this generation is image and technology based. Learners are currently very comfortable on the Internet and with the use of a computer and a mouse. Information is attractive when it is current, image-based and relevant to the lives of the people that interactive. NASA, as a household name, makes things relevant to all of us (from deep-space science to deep-ocean science).
- Because Reading, Writing and Rings is located within the NASA/JPL homepage, it might be easy to get lost. The user needs to know that they want to go to the Educator's section to access the different grade level materials that they desire to use. The "Tips for Navigating" button made me think that it would provide actual navigation tips for the website. Instead, it provided an explanation for the lessons and goals of Reading, Writing and Rings. There was a small annoyance of the site requesting participation in a survey prior to downloading the materials, but skipping that step was allowed if you progressed to the bottom of the page without responding to the survey. There is no real-time chat in place.
- Other Issues and Comments:
- These materials are top-notch for both language arts and science frameworks. Great collection of lesson plans with innovative and engaging activities. One strength of the website is that it is threaded into the NASA education website. Scientist for a day is a great option, but it is no longer viable.
- Creative Commons: