NASA Expeditionary Skills: Preparing for the Learning Adventure

One of our greatest challenges as educators is helping our students prepare for lifelong learning and success.   NASA has developed a set of lesson plans to introduce and practice working as team to solve problems.

The lessons are divided into four modules (Self Care/Team Care; Cultural Competency; Leadership/Followship; and Teamwork Communication) designed to guide you through a variety of team building and growing experiences.  Each of the four modules is complete with a written introduction, targeted grade band (Elementary, Middle School and High school) activities and an introduction video delivered by an NASA Astronaut explaining how important each skill is in preparing you to live and work together.

Self Care/Team Care focuses on learning how to make healthy decisions to create a mentally, physically and emotionally equipped team. Nine grade level unique activities inspire the group to respect the contributions of team members while collaborating to solve the challenges. As teams participate in challenges such as:

  • Rolling marbles through a PVC pipe
  • Coping with anger and frustration wile untangling a knotted rope
  • Passing a stress ball in patterns
  • Practice defining SMART goals as a team they increase their positive and appreciative communication skills

Cultural Competency helps the teams understand the perspective of individual team members and how those individual personal beliefs contribute to the success of the team. Each grade level band has four challenges.  Teams will engage in:

  • Building towers with materials using the 5 “Be’s” of team communication
  • Explore unfamiliar cultural experiences through photography and greeting practices
  • Using a cultural inventory diagram to explore group roles and the concept of community
  • Practice a conflict resolution scenario with respect without resorting to bullying or threatening

Leadership/Followship centers on understanding the advantages of multiple strengths and skill sets available when we work as a team.  During the variety of “missions” in life different members of your team might be better suited to lead. Getting a handle on when to lead and when to follow is critical to the team’s problem solving ability. The activities in this module encourage the team to depend on one another to solve the challenges. The teams will explore challenges such as:

  • Passing the yardstick with specific criteria and constraints
  • Consider honesty, loyalty, courage and ego management while engineering a lunar hotel
  • Learning how to transfer leadership while Engineer a spacecraft to transfer people to a “Mother Ship”
  • Practice utilizing the strengths of the team to solve a kinesthetic spacewalk scenario

Teamwork Communication launches the teams into challenges using all of the skills they have learned.  Each grade level band has three challenges.  Teams will engage in:

  • Recognizing multiple solutions when building a rocket with spaghetti that is light but strong
  • Explore group strengths in determining roles and responsibilities while improving the rocket design
  • Using reflection to strengthen the team ability to benefit from “lessons learned”

Susan Kohler
Educator Professional Development Specialist, NASA STEM EPDC
NASA Glenn Research Center