Big Bang! An Evaluation of NASA’s Space School Musical Program for Elementary and Middle School Learners
Abstract:Music and the performing arts can be a powerful way to engage students in learning about science. Research suggests that content-rich songs enhance student understanding of science concepts by helping students develop content-based vocabulary, by providing examples and explanations of concepts, and connecting to personal and situational interest in a topic. Building on the role of music in engaging students in learning, and on best practices in out-of-school time learning, the NASA Discovery and New Frontiers program in association with Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Marshall Space Flight Center, and KidTribe developed Space School Musical. Space School Musical consists of a set of nine songs and 36 educational activities to teach elementary and middle school learners about the solar system and space science through an engaging storyline and the opportunity for active learning. In 2014, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory contracted with Magnolia Consulting, LLC to conduct an evaluation of Space School Musical. Evaluators used a mixed methods approach to address evaluation questions related to educator professional development experiences, program implementation and perceptions, and impacts on participating students. Measures included a professional development feedback survey, facilitator follow-up survey, facilitator interviews, and a student survey.
Evaluation results showed that educators were able to use the program in a variety of contexts and in different ways to best meet their instructional needs. They noted that the program worked well for diverse learners and helped to build excitement for science through engaging all learners in the musical. Students and educators reported positive personal and academic benefits to participating students. We present findings from the evaluation and lessons learned about integration of the arts into STEM education.