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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Virtual Argonauts: Kids Get the Chance to Explore

The JASON Project brings science and exploration to kids through an innovative use of technology.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team
Credit: Max Seabaugh

Students around the world get the chance to learn science while participating in real scientific expeditions thanks to the capabilities of modern technologies and the resources of the JASON Project.

Founded in 1989 by Dr. Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, the JASON Project is a multi-faceted program that sponsors yearly expeditions for kids, provides curriculum spanning grades K-12, professional development programs for teachers, and on-line networks connecting students, educators, and scientists.

The project draws expertise and support from numerous public and private organizations. At specially equipped museums, universities, and research centers, for example, students view satellite broadcasts of the explorations, use advanced telecommunications technologies to interact with scientists, and even operate an underwater robot called a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle).

Each year, between eight and twenty students and teachers, called Argonauts, are selected to join expeditions in the field for a week or two. In January 1996, Argonauts explored how life adapts to a changing sea in the Florida Bay. One field team compiled information on crocodiles.

"We trudged through the mangroves to get to a crocodile nest that hadn't hatched. ... When we uncovered the nest, the stench was overpowering. ... The crocodile eggs are about the size of goose eggs. When we finished burying them again, we checked our location using the GPS (Global Positioning System)." This is an excerpt from a journal written by ninth- and tenth-grade Argonauts. The journal is posted online where students and teachers around the world can get a firsthand account of the expedition and ask questions of the Argonauts about their work.

Since its inception, the JASON Project has reached well over a million students. With advances in telecommunications technologies, the project hopes to be able to provide a window into science for millions more.

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