Educator Features

Into the 21st Century!
04.27.06
Are your students 21st Century Explorers? Do they have the curiosity, interest, skills and support they need to pursue high-tech interests? Are they excited to be a part of what it will take to send humans to the moon and Mars?

Screenshot from the Noticiencias NASA Web site
Image to right: Students narrate short videos as part of a Noticiencias NASA™ newsbreak. Credit: NASA

21st Century Explorer, a NASA-designed project, takes a big step toward increasing student involvement in space-related areas. Explorer works in collaboration with The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, The Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, Univision Communications (the leading Spanish-language media company in the United States) and the Harris County (Texas) Department of Education.

21st Century Explorer seeks to excite and encourage children to pursue education in advanced areas.

21st Century Explorer logo
The project is part of NASA Kids' Science News Network™. At the NASA KSNN™ Web site, students and educators will find a wide selection of educational packages with hands-on activities and additional information about each topic, as well as newsbreaks presented in both Spanish and English.

Image to left: NASA KSNN™ 21st Century Explorer offers students and teachers space-related fun. Credit: NASA

One word describes the emphasis of the 21st Century Explorer: STEM. That's an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- important elements of high academic achievement. Across the United States, schools are striving to excite all students about STEM studies and achievement. Increasing test scores is only one measure of success, however; motivating student interest in STEM careers takes that success and turns it into careers.


The cornerstone of 21st Century Explorer is a series of newsbreaks and educational materials featuring student actors. These videos address space-related questions and offer engaging responses. Why do astronauts eat tortillas instead of bread? How would your body change in space? Why do robots travel places before people? Why return to the moon before going to Mars? What would you find on the moon's surface? What would you hear in a weather report from Mars? Questions like these spark a natural curiosity to learn more, and once students see that the skills required to find the answers are within their capabilities, they'll want to try more advanced exercises. All of the educational materials are available in both English and Spanish. The Spanish-language version is found at the Noticiencias NASA™ Web site.

Related Resources
+ KSNN™ Web site

+ Noticiencias NASA™ Web site
Both English and Spanish materials are available online for classroom teachers, informal educators and community members to use at the NASA KSNN™ Web site and Noticiencias NASA™ Web site. After viewing each newsbreak, students can click to learn more. Each selection includes grade-specific, inquiry-based activities, video newsbreaks, in-depth information for educators, a resource list of related books and Web sites, a glossary of terms, and a quiz. All materials are aligned to national teaching standards. PDF versions of educator and student hands-on activities are also available at the links below. PDF documents are in printer-ready format, without banners, links, and other distractions found on many Internet locations.

NASA KSNN™ and Noticiencias NASA™ use several methods to increase community awareness and participation. Univision will broadcast Noticiencias NASA™ as public service announcements. Univision-Channel 45 will also feature the 21st Century Explorer project on one of their radio shows and weekend television programming. Regal Cinemas will broadcast NASA KSNN™ Newsbreaks on televisions in theater lobbies across the country. Between the two outlets, thousands, perhaps millions, of families will have access to exciting kid-friendly information from NASA.

Screenshot from the NASA KSNN Newsbreak Web site
Image to left: Student narrators share space facts on NASA KSNN™ Newsbreaks. Credit: NASA

The greater Houston area is testing a pilot after-school program based on the 21st Century Explorer. Participating school systems include Spring Branch, Houston and Pasadena Independent School Districts. The after-school program emphasizes STEM topics and mentor students on pursuing a college education. The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and The Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists are providing professional speakers and mentors to the schools. Society members will also help educators use the 21st Century Explorer materials for the after-school enrichment program. In the 10 participating schools, students in grades three through five will take part in the hands-on activities from the NASA KSNN™ and Noticiencias NASA™ Web sites. After two weeks, the students will create a final project based on space exploration, where they will propose their ideas to NASA.

NASA believes that greater interest and understanding about space means more students will pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It's a situation where everyone benefits. Young people gain valuable career and economic skills; NASA gains highly qualified employees; and communities have a more vibrant base.

+ Cleaning Water Activity + Making Regolith Activity
+ Cool Suits Activity + Moon Mining Activity
+ Designing a Crew Exploration Vehicle Activity + Ray Shielding Activity
+ Food for Spaceflight Activity + Speed It Up Activity
+ Get a Leg Up Activity + Those Who Have Come Before Me Activity
+ Let's Investigate Mars Activity + What's Hidden Inside? Activity

Maggie Griffin/NASA Educational Technology Services