National Aeronautics and Space Administration + NASA Quest
+ Search Quest
 Find it at NASA
 Home Field Expeditions MDRS Archives
Mojave Desert 2007

Spaceward Bound
Expedition: Mojave 2007
by Evan Justin

  1. How will you translate your experiences in the Mojave to your students?

    My most immediate effort was through my daily onsite blogs and captioned photos on FLICKr. The WiFi and bandwidth available onsite were fantastic resources facilitating these endeavors to keep my students excited, involved, and virtual participants in the research - adventure paradigm. Several students & coworkers analogized to me the effect as being as immediate & involving as reality TV, in large part due to my focus on 1st person feelings, outlooks, expectations, and their comparison to my actual experiences & learning's. A friend in the press strongly suggested I put myself in as many posted pictures as possible, weather silly or serious, along with others on the teams performing exciting or unusual activities, with the type of 1st person narratives mentioned above. It worked great with my k-12 populations, even with my EPO events off island.

    Back in the classroom, I began with a discussion / ?&A of my experiences, and an explanation of what I was planning as beta activities in the weeks ahead. My bacterial soil crust, hypolithic algae, desert varnish, stromatolite, geology samples, presentation files, and maps from the Zzyzx store really helped bring my experiences home. My goal is to design some hypolythic algae prospecting activities as comparison & contrast to the search for life on Mars, at 3 levels - g3-6, g7-10, & g10-13. Middle elementary would prospect for & attempt to farm hypolithic algae, identifying biologic from geologic coloration by removal from substrate, drying, rewetting with damp paper toweling, and abrasion, recording with digital photography and recording observations. Middle school would try out various LED / optical filter combinations (narrowed in scope by the bioindicator fluorescence team’s specs.), and HS-JC would attempt genetic marker ID using PCR kits. I’m still shopping for applicable, affordable tech, and expect to ramp up my search over the summer.
    This summer, I’m working as a counselor & presenter for the Washington Aerospace Scholars Program. Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, (former astronaut, & new director of the Boeing Museum of Flight) cloned a long running Space Center Houston program for STEM recruiting of HS juniors. The mission this year is planning & executing a manned mission to Mars. I’m hoping to find lots of opportunities to integrate my SBM experiences, and make new contacts in my student’s schools for beta testing my activities, and starting a results sharing net, in addition to my NEAT, SSA, NES, & NSTA lists.

  2. Describe your personal changes in your outlook on science, teaching, and science research?

    My personal outlook on science research and science as an experience & process hasn’t changed much from my earlier experiences as a field scientist in toxicology operationally, but emotionally it is a LOT more fun putting an education foundation under everything, from process through product. Educators & students are my favorite kind of people, especially when they are as highly motivated, strong achievers, intelligent, and sharing as this group is. I did used to believe that science was more of a priesthood, isolated pursuit of enlightenment which could only be fully appreciated by other adepts. Since I began trying to integrate my research experiences into my pedagogy, I’ve come to believe that passionate exertion is a bliss appreciable by everyone, and science research is a fantastic medium for educating our students in the methods & values of such endeavors, where ever their own interests and abilities may lead.

  3. What was most effective about how the Expedition went?

    It was a great package, with no singular make or break experience, rather it was the integration of elements that made it such a powerful experience. The webchats and assignments were great preps, the accommodations fantastic, the diverse talents, experiences, and perspectives, and the high degree of motivation of the participants made a rich tapestry when woven together by the shared experiences in the field, labs, and meetings, both formal & informal. Great energy, community, expertise, and a huge reservoir of good humor, tolerance, common dedication to being copescetic, & the shared values of education built camaraderie out of potential obstacles like lemonade from lemons.
    Concretely, I liked the survey of activities, and the method of creating field teams the best. My preconception was that it would be a muddled hodge poge of insufficient access to experience, materials, or expertise to come away with any coherent new approaches for pedagogy vectors or curricular content. I could not have been more wrong. Our access to experiences, materials, essentially private tutorials on content and approaches in the field, formal presentations, and informal settings provided an incredibly rich and diverse set of experiences from which to draw on for our classroom implementations.

  4. What could be done differently with Spaceward Bound? What other experiences could be offered?

    Having just detailed all the things I found remarkable about SBM, I wouldn’t advise “fixing” it. I have been a part of several other organizations interested in fostering teacher based curriculum development and networking, usually with mixed success. One possibility I’ve seen work is forming EPO teams after the field experience (Like WWNFF), to aid in dissemination of the newly created materials. I’m also still interested in distributing PDFs of SBM posters and an “updates” or “events” page on the website for us to either upload URLs of our doings, or for you to post a brief descriptive link & picture (like SSA).

    As for other experiences, I think you all have much better ideas than I would for Mars Analog research sites. You might consider flight & design related experiences, such as @ JPL or AMES (like NEAT).

  5. Were the pre-expedition broadcasts helpful? Suggestions for improvements?

    They were great - especially useful were the pre-webcast posted content materials, and the Zzyzx “what to bring” & “what it’s like” links. Archives of the webcast I think makes getting the information foolproof - greatly appreciated alternative when schedules collide. I think you made available e-mailing questions for the webcasts in advance - if not, it might facilitate discussion items in the future.

  6. What did you get out of the personal interaction with scientists and other teachers? How will it affect your teaching?

    This was the heart of the matter for me. Highly motivated, strong content teachers, in combination with extremely teacher-tolerant researchers, mixed in situ, was the best. The informal settings allowed much more contextualization, internalization, generalization, and synthesis that just guided inquiry or formal presentations generally produce. Meals, travel time, evenings, dead time in the field, all were exceedingly valuable processing time for us - as I said above, essentially private tutorials.

    This experience has had a profound impact on my classroom management & assessment methodology. I shifted my lab assessments from an emphasis on written report format (hypothesis - conclusion), with socratic construction as needed, to conversing all along the run of the lab, scheduling conferences into the syllabus. There’s no substitute for face time when it comes to integration. Productivity was essentially unaffected, and demonstrated mastery went way up (~30% increase). It was also a LOT more fun for both the students & myself to talk more constructively about the material as we worked on it.

  7. How can NASA support the next group of teachers and the Spaceward Bound program?

    From my perspective, perhaps the most effective use of resources would be to keep the present funding formula: pay for a great site, a great research team, and help teachers find transport with supporting appeals to spacegrant or local charitable organizations / district professional development fund requests as the money diminishes. I liked being able to join a large, well funded & supported organization, finding my own transport & sub cost coverage, as opposed to being rejected, or being a part of a smaller group. Aside from that, I think making PDF poster materials and webspace available for EPO support would provide a measurable benefit for the lowest cost.

  8. Estimate the number of people who watched the webcast? (school, family, etc.) Provide a breakdown of who watched?

    My school’s 8th grade population watched the webcast (128) - most (3/4) via archive upon my return. Our Spanish elective classes watched the Spanish webcast live & via archive (1/2 each, 50 students total, mixed 6-7-8 grade). Friends & family account for another dozen adults. The archives are a terrific resource - I’ll make them a part of my courses as long as they are posted (~130 students / year, plus EPO {~200-300/year}).

  9. If you are a part of an NES school or NEAT program, how did this affiliation affect your experience on the expedition?

    It was very significant. Seeing familiar friendly faces, catching up in person, learning what they had succeeded and failed at implementing since last we worked together, shared experience & culture - all served to enhance my experiences at SBM. Instant family.

    If NEAT &/or NES fail to provide adequate teacher resources in future, I strongly recommend that teacher teams be considered for an application preference, if not a requirement. Although I would have greatly enjoyed SBM as a lone wolf, I think I would have spent a great deal more effort trying to get my social bearings (what is expected of us, how do I bounce ideas off people I don’t know well yet (or know how to judge their input)).

  10. What do you see Spaceward Bound evolving into in the next 5 years? What would it look like?

    I’d like to see SB build into a rolling probe support system in k12 STEM / EPO curricular construction. Perhaps we could get former student recipients of such instruction to enter the cycle as STEM researchers / mentors for future teacher cadres. Like WWNFF, I’d also like to see an accumulation of experienced teachers forming an ever widening EPO pool, with opportunities to cross over into research roles as education (& research proposals) would allow. Likewise, encouraging scientists to make classroom pilgrimages to observe curricular implementations might help close the assessment loop and keep creative interactions growing.

    I’d also like to see a probe engineering / science instrument component, if possible, ala the robotic activities @ SBM.


 FirstGov  NASA

Editor: Linda Conrad
NASA Official: Liza Coe
Last Updated:February 2006
Students Contact: Loretta Hidalgo
Teachers Contact: Liza Coe