George Lucas Educational Foundation

The JASON Project: Kids Become Virtual Adventurers

In person or via satellite, students engage in project learning through the exploits of Titanic explorer Robert Ballard. More to this story.
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The JASON Project: Kids Become Virtual Adventurers (Transcript)

Student: Right now we're hiking out to the flow like we said earlier, and we brought our equipment with us, our GPS, Global Positioning System, and we're going to go track the outside perimeter of the flow that we measured yesterday. So okay..

Narrator: These young explorers are studying fresh lava flows on Hawaii, and broadcasting their observations via satellite to schools around the world.

Student: And we're studying lava flows.

Narrator: This ambitious expedition is the culmination of this year's JASON Project, a comprehensive project-based learning program developed by Doctor Bob Ballard, the explorer who found the wreck of the Titanic.

Robert: Why don't you say, "Hi," to everyone?

Student: Hi, everybody.

Robert: I came back from that expedition. There were 16,000 letters waiting for me, and they all basically said the same thing. You know, what do I have to do to do what you do? Well the answer is simple. You go to college, you study physics for ten years, it's a slam-dunk after that. But the kids were not making the connection between the scientific adventure I was having and the dues I had to pay to live that adventure.

Narrator: Begun in 1989, the JASON Project now reaches more than five million fourth through eighth graders around the world.

Robert: The idea is this: that they will study a pretty tough curriculum with science, and chemistry, math and physics, and biology and social sciences as well. And then at the culmination of their studies, we'll do an expedition live for them.

And we'll be going up to the crater up at Kilauea, up on the rim.

Sometimes we'll go in the rainforest, sometimes we'll go beneath the sea, sometimes we'll go into outer space, doesn't matter. Wherever there's action in science. And then we use this technology of tele-presence to then transport them on the expedition.

Student: Get the camera. Look at that.

Student: Wow, look at that.

Student: Back up. Back up. Back up. Back up.

Robert: We also have our Argonaut programs, and these are kids that actually go on the expedition with us, and they're sort of our ambassadors. Kids listen to kids, so we like to integrate them into the program.

Student: We now have what we call a lava dogs down on the actual active lava flow, and right now it's quite..

Gwendolyn: This for us helps close that digital divide because our students may not have all the resources to be able to travel to these different locations, you know? At least they have that understanding of the world. We bring it right here using the technology.

Narrator: Gwendolyn Faulkner and Beverly Battle have seen the positive impact of project-based learning programs like the JASON Project on their students at Washington D.C.'s Harriet Tubman School.

Beverly: And that was showing how birds adapt to their habitats or their environments by using their beaks. On your tables, you have been given a set of tweezers, straw, a spoon, and a clothespin. And also you have some food sources.

I have a population of students who are very diverse. Students who are African-American, Hispanic, and Asian, and a lot of those students come to us not equipped with the skills that some of our counterparts in the city may have.

And see how much you can pick up with your beak.

Their skills have strengthened in reading, in math, in all subject areas as a result of participating in project-based learning.

Student: This is how much we picked up, and this is how much we have left.

Beverly: All right.

Student: We get to interact more with each other, with the teacher. It's more fun.

Beverly: One of my Hispanic students spoke very little English when he came to me in September. And his involvement in project-based learning has made him come out of his shell. He's eager to do whatever you want him to do. He loves getting on the computer. He is no longer the shy student who did not want to talk when I called on him. Now he's eager to answer it all the time.

What were they doing?

Student: They wanted to see how one bug on the surface is different to the same bug in the lava too.

Beverly: Okay. Good. Very good.

Narrator: In addition to the interdisciplinary curriculum materials, there's an opportunity for students to publish their journals and chat live with scientists on the web.

Gwendolyn: So kids can actually actively engage with scientists, asking them their real-life questions, and getting almost an immediate response back. So it opens up the doors of opportunity, and that's what that technology will allow us to do here.

Beverly: Now we're going to show how volcanoes erupt.

Our students have a very short attention span, so we have to constantly think of ideas which to keep them busy, to keep them involved.

When she puts it in, close it.

Student: Close it.

Beverly: Quickly. [

Beverly: It gives you a lift when you see the children are learning. You see on their faces what happens during an experiment like we did in the classroom with the explosion of the Alka-Seltzer in the film can. You know, they don't see this every day.

How would that compare to a volcano erupting?

Student: it probably-- with enough pressure get in it, it'll pop.

Beverly: All right. Where would that pressure come from?

Student: The center.

Beverly: The center of what?

Student: The earth.

Beverly: All right.

For them to learn something from that, and to connect that knowledge, that gives me a lift, and it makes me know that I'm having successes in my classroom. And a teacher wants to have success.

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, and Directed by

  • Ken Ellis

Associate Producers:

  • Leigh Iacobucci
  • Diane Curtis


  • Karen Sutherland

Camera Crew:

  • Rege Becker
  • Jim Gilchrist
  • Joseph Rose


  • Susan Blake

Additional Footage Courtesy of

  • The JASON Project

Editor's Note: Since this video was produced in 2002, the JASON Project has become a nonprofit subsidiary of the National Geographic Society; the curriculum was completely redesigned in 2007. JASON no longer does an annual satellite broadcast, but both of the newly designed curriculum units have won a number of awards, including the Software and Information Industry Association's 2008 CODiE Award for Best Online Instructional Solution for the free online curriculum Operation: Monster Storms.

Comments (5) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

tyler's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

hi do you know how to get to the jason project

Laurie Chu's picture
Laurie Chu
Web Production Manager

Staff comment:

You can read more to this story at JASON and the New Argonauts: Students Become Explorers. Here is the Jason Project Web site.

Tanya Baumgardner's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My 6th grade Earth Science students have been using the JASON Project's Operation Resilient Storm for the past month. I love that I can send set-up a webpage from the site, assign various tasks (assessments, reading,interactive games, videos, etc), as well as do labs together in class. I teach 6 periods of science and it is very, very easy to manage and my student's online journals are examples of some of their best writing and thinking yet!

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