Formal Education Products and Programs

Educational units for school-aged children from elementary, middle and high school have been developed. Materials for grades K-4 are called activities. For middle school and high school, we developed educational modules that consist of guides for both students and teachers, and include alignment with science and/or math educational standards. All materials can be used in both formal classrooms and informal settings such as community or after school programs. The modules were reviewed by scientists for scientific accuracy before being tested with the intended audience. They were reviewed by educators, revised and reviewed again and posted on the project's web site. Some of the materials were reviewed by the Solar System Education Review process and recommended for distribution through NASA's CORE program. Major distribution is via the world wide web. All materials described here are available at

2.1. Elementary School Activities

Two principles drove development of materials for K-4:

1. Younger children begin by being curious about the world, efforts were made to build on that curiosity to prevent their losing it.

2. Children have different learning styles and will engage differently in educational activities.

Activities were built around things in which children naturally engage in during their early years - singing, listening to stories, using their imagination, and making crafts. A brief description is given below.

A simple song, written by E/PO team member, Maura Rountree-Brown, contains some basic facts about comets. The song spells out the word "comets" with an easy tune. Actions such as hand gestures and clapping are included so that the brain is recording the information through three different modes, with music, rhythm, and kinesthetic action. After singing the song, the students and presenter go over it line by line and ask questions such as, "If the song says a comet is very, very cold, what might a comet be made of?" The children easily come up with the concept of ice. By repeating the lines from the beginning every time a new line is added, the information is worked deeper and deeper into a student's memory. Teachers report that children are heard singing the song on the playground weeks after it was initially introduced to them. http://deepimpact.umd.edU/educ/storysong.html#cometsong.

A hands-on activity on comet modeling called Comet on a Stick works well with young students following the song activity. This activity has been used with all age groups, however. Background information is provided to students about the reasons for developing a model of the comet for planning and design purposes. The students then form teams. Using an 8" x 11" piece of paper, the team shapes a comet nucleus and attaches it to a stick. They choose two or three facts about comets to model them using re-cycled materials: tin foil, black paper, beads, fiber fill for pillows and other items that a teacher can collect. Once their models are built, each team has a chance to show them, while other teams determine the subject being communicated. Misconceptions can be caught because they are physically showing what they learned. Modifications to this activity include selecting a candy bar that best represents what might be found beneath the surface of a comet and defending the reason for choosing it (layers, homogenous, rocky). (Figure 1).

Jochen Kiesel
Figure 1. Team member Jochen Kissel shows a version of a modeled comet.

2.1.3. Comet Sisters

M. Rountree-Brown also wrote a mythical comet story after taking a class at the International Storytelling Center on incorporating story into education. "I'm going to tell you a story," she starts out. "Some of what I tell you is true about comets, some of it might be true and we will find out what happens when we execute the Deep Impact mission. Some of it -1 just made up." Students who listen to the story can either draw their impressions on paper or discuss it afterward to find out what they know to be true or to perhaps be true about comets.

2.1.4. Make a Comet and Eat It

This activity starts with a basic ice cream recipe and suggests that students put in foods such as peppermint, ground cookies, peanuts, gummy bears, all of which represent components of a comet. The teams trade ice cream bags and then start using their individual senses to research what is in the ice cream: look at it, smell it, feel a separate cup of it, taste it. The process is compared to that of a spectrometer in using different wavelengths to collect different kinds of information about what is in the comet.

2.2. Middle and High School Modules

Materials for middle schools were built upon interdisciplinary themes combining social education (team work and communication) with science education. Workshops for teachers at the National Science Teachers' Association were held during which these materials were introduced and feedback was collected and incorporated into revision of the materials. High school material focuses on physics and includes inquiry-based processes.

2.2.1. Collaborative Decision-Making

Collaborative Decision Making is designed to engage students in grades 7-12 in activities that focus on collaboration and communication strategies. These activities strengthen students' understanding of and ability to use collaborative processes and communication practices to clarify, conceptualize, and make decisions. Students first consider cases in which they have to make decisions that are important in their life. They discuss how they arrive at a course of action or a decision. They are then presented with a problem that the Deep Impact team confronted, that of deciding the best time for the impactor to hit the comet. Students take on the roles of different project members, the principal investigator, the project manager, and engineer. After the risks are identified, they gather and convey evidence supporting and refuting the viability of these actions. The module's strategies rely primarily on student investigation into the background information that is necessary to support arguments; make quantitative risk analyses; engage in debate, role-playing, and practice persuasive writing and communication processes; and practice group decision-making procedures. The material is aligned with national science education standards (Appendix I). It was selected by the OSS, peer review process for wide distribution throughout NASA Resource Centers.

2.2.2. High Power Activity

An activity that takes less time to research and is not as technically involved as Collaborative Decision Making is called High Power Activity. It focuses on the same decision-making processes forming the basis of Collaborative Decision Making. Students play the role of different members of the project and are confronted with a problem that is similar to one that arose in the course of the Deep Impact mission. A company offered to pay to place extra cameras on the spacecraft to watch the impactor separate from the flyby spacecraft. After the students consider the pros and cons of this proposal, they decide what to do. They can compare their decision making with that of the Deep Impact team.

2.2.3. Designing Craters

Designing Craters is a two-to-three week inquiry-based module addressing the question: "How do you make a 7-15 stories deep, football stadium-sized crater in a comet?" The lessons are designed for students in grades 9-12 and provide them with experience in conducting scientific inquiries, making measurements, displaying data and analyzing it to gain a greater understanding of scientific modeling while involving students in the excitement of a NASA mission in development. This unit was designed as part of a Masters degree in Science Education at University of Maryland. After studying the physics of crater formation based on the work of Melosh (1996), the graduate student then developed guidelines for student-designed experiments. The activities are designed to model one path that a scientific inquiry might take. The students begin by brainstorming what factors might influence crater size and doing some initial experimentation and exploration. They evaluate each other's suggestions and describe their initial ideas about cratering phenomena. Next, they design their own experiments to test one of the possible factors influencing crater formation. Emphasis is placed on experiment design, limiting the test to one variable, and quantifying the experiment. After analyzing the data for patterns that might be used to predict crater size from initial variables, the students test those predictions, use the results to refine their methods of prediction, and try again. The students discuss the advantages and limits of scientific modeling as they compare their own low-energy simulations, the work of Deep Impact Science Team cratering experts, and cratering on a Solar System scale. Finally, the students use current information about comets and the patterns they derived from their own investigations to give their best answer to the initial question. These answers can be submitted to the Deep Impact Education and Outreach Team.

Science team members reviewed the material while it was being tested in the classroom. When science team member Jay Melosh pointed out that laboratory experiments in high schools do not represent hypervelocity impacts in space, a section was added in which students discuss and compare their experimental conditions to those in space. They are led to an understanding of the limitations of laboratory experiments as well as knowledge that conditions in space are different. Science standards addressed in this unit are available in Appendix II. This unit is available at:

2.2.4. Math Challenges

A series of math problems was developed from computations that are necessary to carry out the Deep Impact mission. Algebra and geometry are required. Called Mission Challenges, they have been aligned to National Math standards and can be found at:

2.3. University Programs

Two higher education programs were developed after the initial planning of the Deep Impact E/PO program. Both programs offered undergraduate university students the opportunity to gain valuable research or engineering experience that will allow them to participate in the mission. The Deep Impact mission is a catalyst for long-term education and public outreach collaborations.

2.3.1. Deep Impact Project Schools Technology Collaboration (DIPSTIC) DIPSTIC is a joint venture of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Los Angeles City College (LACC), University of Texas El Paso (UTEP), Digital Media Center (DMC) and the Deep Impact project at the University of Maryland. Participants in the program collect telescopic observations of 9P/Tempel 1 using a CCD camera built by the students and staff at LACC. This is a unique opportunity for undergraduates at a community college to participate in a NASA space mission. Data are gathered at Table Mountain Observatory (TMO) and analyzed by students. The results of their observations are distributed to the public through a web site built by students at the Digital Media Center (DMC) at UTEP. A cooled CCD detector system is built and operated by LACC students for comet spectroscopy.

The main goal of DIPSTIC is to provide a research experience for undergraduates. It is a focused effort reaching a small number of students and community college professors in an in-depth way. The team is on a journey to define the project's scientific goals, build the CCD camera, plan and execute novel astronomical observations, analyze data and finally, report results. NASA/JPL technology expertise has been transferred to LACC by developing the CCD.

Nine students between the ages of 19 and 25 have participated. They are physics, electrical engineering and computer science majors. None had previous experience in astronomy. Grades were not considered. Selection was based upon enthusiasm and interviews. In the CCD construction phase physics and engineering students were chosen. When the main task became software development, computer science students were selected. Physics and engineering students will observe the comet. The educational benefits to students are several.

1. They learn that the real scientific world is about finding solutions to problems.

2. They learn to work independently and confidently.

3. They learn to set goals and meet them.

4. They learn to think "outside the box".

5. They also learn teamwork.

Their experiences encouraged the students to ask more questions in class, which probably carried over into their other classes and benefited their academic studies.

DIPSTIC provided one LACC instructor (Mike Prichard) with first-hand experience with unusual devices like thermoelectric coolers and thermistors. He promptly replaced experiments using more mundane electrical components with these devices in his electrical engineering classes. This required considerable modification of his curriculum. Experience in the DIPSTIC program gave him a new experimental perspective from which to teach his electronics classes.

The DIPSTIC laboratory and fabrication facility at LACC is essentially a college physics experiment. LACC science professors conducted tours of the lab for their students. DIPSTIC provides an example of the real world to students to motivate their academics.

A large draw for prospective DIPSTIC students is the opportunity to work with a NASA/JPL scientist who worked at LACC every Friday between May 2002 and June 2004. The program is now sustained by instructors; Mr. Dean Arvidson, Physics, Ren Colantoni and Mike Prichard, custom CCD electronics, Mike Slawinski, CCD cooling system.

Results are reported on the DIPSTIC web site at The DMC built and maintains the web site. This aspect of the program brought together the expertise of the Digital Media Center (DMC) with the students in need of presenting their results to the public. In 2003 the DMC team filmed video interviews with DIPSTIC students. They gave knowledgeable presentations, without scripts, after participating for less than a year. The web site also presents the student's experimental logs and theoretical investigations on Microsoft™ Excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint presentations to the LACC physics club by DIPSTIC students and an HTML version of a poster-paper reporting the experimental work of the first year on the construction of the CCD cooling system. There are also photos and biographical sketches of all the participants. The DMC also produced the paper as a laminated 44 x 44 inch poster. It was presented at the 2003 Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research.

2.3.2. Observing the Impact

High School and undergraduate students around the country are preparing to observe the comet both before and after impact. Many school educators who have been participating in training workshops over the duration of the mission will be working with students to observe the comet as part of the Small Telescope Science Program (Section 3.4) which requires a CCD camera and a telescope, or the Amateur Observers Program (Section 3.5) which requires just a dark sky and the ability to describe and possibly draw, what is seen. Professional scientists at colleges and universities around the country will be participating with observers at telescopes around the world in monitoring the behavior of the comet before, during and after impact. There are opportunities for students to observe using remote telescopes such as those connected with the TIE program, and the Faulkes Telescope,

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