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, (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) SSERVI team. 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 advisor. The program includes two elements: 1) two guided inquiry, introductory research activities that build students’ 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. At the end of the school year, teams submit an abstract and research poster which are scored by a panel a judges. The top four scoring teams gather virtually via Adobe Connect to give short presentations to the judges. After presentations and time for Q&A, the judges deliberate and choose one team to present in person at the Exploration Science Forum (ESF). The posters of all finalist schools are displayed at the ESF.
Evaluation data collected during each program year includes pre and post assessments of changes in students’ lunar/asteroid content knowledge, student attitudes toward science and science careers, and student reporting of the processes of science in which their team participated. Exit surveys for teachers, students, and advisors are also distributed at the end of each program year to gather general feedback about the program and its impact.