Mission: Solar System Evaluation
This evaluation reports on the Mission: Solar System project, a 2-year project funded by NASA. The goal of the Mission: Solar System was to create a collection of resources that integrates digital media with hands-on science and engineering activities to support kids’ exploration in formal and informal education settings. Our goal in creating the resources were: For youth: (1) Provide opportunities to use science, technology, engineering, and math to solve challenges related to exploring our solar system, (2) Build and hone critical thinking, problem-solving, and design process skills, (3) Increase knowledge, curiosity, and awareness of space exploration, (4) Introduce a range of NASA-related careers, and (5) Enhance interest in pursuing STEM studies. For educators: (1) increase knowledge and understanding of solar system exploration as it relates to NASA’s activities, (2) Enhance skills, knowledge, and confidence to facilitate hands-on, inquiry-based science and engineering activities with youth, and (3) Provide free user-tested resources that support the curriculum and are educational and engaging for youth. The Mission: Solar System resources consist of: • a 40-page Educator’s Guide with five hands-on challenges related to NASA’s Year of the Solar System missions. The Educator’s Guide is designed for youth ages 9–12 and provides opportunities for them to learn STEM in the context of NASA missions. The guide also includes two posters. One depicts the engineering design process. The other shows the missions that are part of NASA’s Year of the Solar System. • five 3-minute Do-It-Yourself (DIY) live-action videos featuring kids doing the activities from the guide. • five 3-minute video profiles (Engineer Videos) of NASA engineers. The profile videos introduce children and their families to the lives and work of NASA engineers. • five family activity sheets (Conversation Starters) related to the engineer profiles for families. These have been translated and are available in both English and Spanish. • a training video for educators. The evaluation questions were tied directly to the project goals and included: 1. Impact on Students: What was the impact on kids’ knowledge, attitudes, and interests? Were the kids engaged by the challenges? 2. Impact on Educators: How satisfied were educators with the resources? Were the resources feasible, appealing, useful, usable, and relevant? Did the resources impact educators’ comfort level in leading such challenges with their students? Concord Evaluation Group, an independent research firm, completed the Mission: Solar System evaluation in December 2013. The findings show that Mission: Solar System has established itself as a strong and solid model for how families, informal educators, and classroom teachers can integrate media and hands-on exploration to inspire imaginations and engage children in STEM concepts and the design process. Appendix includes instruments.