Integrating NASA Resources into Your Busy Classroom
In these days of high stakes testing and standards adoptions it can be difficult to see space (pun intended) for NASA in your busy curriculum. I promise you that there are ways to bring in NASA resources and not lose your mind. The following are some suggestions for you to consider as you prepare for the next school year.
Take Whatever You Need
Remember that all NASA educational resources are available free of charge either online, through educator workshops and conferences or through your nearest NASA Educator Resource Center. For online searches, adding NASA to the search seems to work pretty well. I recommend trying the search engine at NASA’s education page or NASA Wavelength as methods of finding resources for specific grades and topics. If you find that you need help narrowing the list, you can always contact an Educator Professional Development Collaborative specialist to give you some ideas.
Consider Multi-concept Activities
In many cases, NASA lesson activities can be used to cover multiple topics. For example, the marble run activities from Amusement Park Physics with a NASA Twist https://spaceflightsystems.grc.nasa.gov/outreach/appd/appd_resources.html address mechanical energy, energy conservation, describing motion, forces and friction. If you can replace multiple current activities with a single activity covering those same topics and then refer back to it as new concepts are introduced, you can get more time for discussions to build in depth understanding. Multi-concept activities are especially useful with NASA’s engineering design resources as engineering design concepts need not be taught in a vacuum.
Your Curriculum and Sequencing is Paramount
A key thing to remember is that, while many NASA lessons come in educator guides which have a sequence laid out for the activities, they are only suggestions. No one at NASA is going to come get you for doing them out of order or as stand-alone activities. In fact, we encourage you to mix and match resources to customize them into your curriculum. Your pacing and curriculum needs are the most important aspect of choosing NASA materials.
Modify, Modify, Modify
Just as we are not going to check to see if you are following our sequence of lessons, we are also not going to see if you present the lesson in the exact manner that is laid out in the NASA guides. Customize and emphasize the pieces that you need and play down the parts that you do not need. One caveat to this is that, when they are given, we strongly advise you to always follow all safety guidelines.
If you keep these things in mind, I think you will find that integrating NASA resources is more rewarding than difficult. Remember, with NASA education, the sky is not the limit!
John F. Weis
EPD Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
NASA Marshall Space Flight Center