Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students (ExMASS): An Authentic, Open-Inquiry Research Experience for High School Students
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
The National Research Council (2012) has expressed a need for participatory science experiences for students. Opportunities are needed for students which 1) allow them to understand how scientific knowledge develops and 2) can heighten their curiosity, capture their interest, and motivate their continued study of science. Studies (e.g., Aydeniz et al., 2011) have also recommend educators provide students with opportunities to do science through extracurricular work with scientists. In addition to being given the opportunity to fully participate in the scientific enterprise, students must also be explicitly guided in their attempts to develop a more appropriate understanding of the nature of the scientific enterprise (McDonald, 2010; Rudge & Howe, 2010; Yacoubian & BouJaoude, 2010). Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students, or ExMASS, provides such an opportunity for students. The ExMASS program is an education effort managed by the LPI/NASA JSC-led Center for Lunar Science and Exploration (CLSE), one of nine teams comprising NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). Over the course of one academic year, teams of high school students conduct their own scientific investigations of either Earth’s Moon or asteroids, with guidance from a scientist mentor. The program includes two elements: 1) a guided inquiry introductory research activity that builds student knowledge of current lunar/asteroid science and lunar/asteroid data, and 2) an open inquiry research project in which the students apply their knowledge to a self-defined project. Evaluation data collected during the predecessor program to ExMASS revealed many successes, but also room for improvement. In response, an Advisory Group consisting of past teachers and mentors was formed to address the gaps revealed in the evaluation data. The ExMASS program will continue to collect similar evaluation data including assessment of changes in students’ lunar/asteroid content knowledge, student attitudes toward science and science careers, and views of the nature of science and scientific inquiry. Exit surveys for teachers, students, and mentors will also be used to gather general feedback about the program and its impact.