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NASA Space Science Education Resources and the Importance of Real-World, Authentic Solutions for Meaningful Student Learning

Quality real-world Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) educational resources are needed within programs of teacher education and P-12 classrooms. The National Association of Manufacturing (2018) reported that the United States will need to fill 3.5 million jobs by 2025, with more than two million going unfilled due to lack of highly skilled in-demand candidates. The US Defense Industrial Base Industrial Capabilities Report (2021) showed a need for STEM education by stating that the STEM shortage is quickly approaching crisis status. This report is a congressionally-mandated, annual requirement in which the Secretary of Defense informs the armed services committees on the actions, investments, and overall health of the U.S. defense industrial base. 

Space science education is an excellent “hook” to get students engaged in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The resources from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Education office are authentic, standards-based real-world applications of STEM. Authentic sources of curricular support materials are motivating and meaningful to students and “facilitate the transfer of skills from the classroom into the real world and demonstrate the relevance of curricula content” (2022). Further, authentic learning increases students’ engagement of learning the lesson and overall content.  

NASA JPL Education resources include the tenth anniversary of Pi Day where students work through real world applications of STEM that are faced by NASA scientists, astronauts, and engineers using pi; new mission activities and lessons including Europa Clipper, a reconnaissance mission that will perform dozens of close flybys of Jupiter’s moon Europa to gather detailed measurements to investigate whether this moon could have conditions suitable for life; and the Psyche mission, which is a journey to a unique metal-rich asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter. What makes the asteroid Psyche unique is that it might be the exposed nickel-iron core of an early planet, one of the building blocks of our solar system.  

Pass along these links to the NASA JPL Education monthly newsletter and website to all STEM educators to stay informed of the latest learning materials and opportunities. New lessons and activities are released often.   

References 

Defazio, J. (2022, April 6). Three benefits of using authentic curriculum resources. Education Advanced. https://educationadvanced.com/resources/blog/3-benefits-of-using-authentic-curriculum-resources/  

Deloitte Insights and the Manufacturing Institute. (2018, January). Deloitte and the manufacturing institute skills gap and the future of work study. http://www.themanufacturinginstitute.org/~/media/E323C4D8F75A470E8C96D7A07F0A14FB/DI_2018_Deloitte_MFI_skills_gap_FoW_study.pdf      

U.S Department of Defense. (2020). US defense industrial base industrial capabilities report. https://media.defense.gov/2021/Jan/14/2002565311/-1/-1/0/FY20-INDUSTRIAL-CAPABILITIES-REPORT.PDF


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