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NASA’s Elementary and Secondary Education Program: Review and Critique
on their investment. For NASA, this responsibility is fulfilled in part by ensuring that the discoveries, knowledge, and information that result from its science, engineering, and exploration programs are effectively shared with the public. One of the ways that this sharing takes place is through NASA’s education programs. To successfully implement its mandate in education, NASA needs a clear view of the program’s goal and strategies for stability, project goals, and partnerships.
Overarching Program Goal
NASA’s role in K-12 STEM education is both motivated and constrained by NASA’s overall mission as a science, engineering, and space exploration agency. The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education share the lead federal roles in K-12 STEM education and are responsible for the primary federal investment in these activities. Thus, NASA, like other federal science agencies, has an important but complementary role in K-12 STEM education. The assets NASA brings to this role come from the agency’s contributions in science and technology made through the work in the mission directorates: Science, Aeronautics Research, Exploration Systems, and Space Operations.
Conclusion: The primary strengths and resources that NASA brings to K-12 STEM education are its scientific discoveries, its technology and aeronautical developments, and its space exploration activities, as well as the scientists, engineers, and other technical staff that make up its workforce and the unique excitement generated by flight and space exploration. Because engineering and technology development are subjects that are not well covered in K-12 curricula, projects aimed at inspiring and engaging students in these areas are particularly important.
Recommendation 1 NASA should continue to engage in education activities at the K-12 level, designing its K-12 activities so that they capitalize on NASA’s primary strengths and resources, which are found in the mission directorates. These strengths and resources are the agency’s scientific discoveries; its technology and aeronautical developments; its space exploration activities; the scientists, engineers, and other technical staff (both internal and external) who carry out NASA’s work; and the unique excitement generated by space flight and space exploration.
Recommendation 2 The exciting nature of NASA’s mission gives particular value to projects whose primary goal is to inspire and engage students’ interest in science and engineering, and NASA’s education portfolio should include projects with these goals. Because engineering