Mission IIS NASA/CCSSO Interdisciplinary Independent Study

Following up on the success of the Virtual Learning Magnet Physics course (See link on the right), NASA has awarded CCSSO a contract to develop a series of "Interdisciplinary Independent Studies" that use current NASA missions as the context for mastering physics and mathematics concepts.

Be sure to consult the FAQ about the project.


 Interdisciplinary, Independent Study

Submitted 23 September 2010


Make available and expand access to interdisciplinary, independent learning experiences that promote scientific inquiry, integrate STEM core content knowledge, develop 21st century skills, and utilize NASA missions to provide a relevant context for learning.


Principle: Independent studies are most relevant to and effective for independent learners when their development is informed, personalized and driven by independent learners themselves.

Strategy: Using a learner-centered design methodology (see attachment) the CCSSO Independent Study development team will (1) identify a limited number of NASA missions to provide a context for learning; (2) identify appropriate supplemental content from NASA’s existing portfolio of educational opportunities and resources, (3) construct student-directed learning experiences that foster the development of critical thinking, global literacy, and creativity, and are aligned with the high school discipline of physics and the supporting mathematics standards from the newly adopted Common Core (www.corestandards.org) (4) develop key services and materials that support personalized learning and facilitation of independent learners by a qualified teachers and/or subject matter experts.


(1) Identify a limited number of NASA missions to provide a context for learning.  Working with NASA education specialists, Project personnel will identify three to five current, past and future NASA missions to provide a real context for learning aligned to physics content and the Common Core Standards for mathematics. 

(2) Identify appropriate content from NASA’s existing portfolio of educational opportunities. 

Working with virtual high school students and student experience experts, the Project team will establish a youth co-design team of approximately twelve to sixteen students to identify targeted learning standards for learners.  Students and design experts will review NASA’s existing portfolio of educational opportunities and resources to align with the targeted standards and determine, in consultation with the NASA Project Manager, appropriate mission content to further help in the achievement of the targeted standards by approximately 300-500independent learners.

(3) Construct student-directed learning experiences that are aligned with physics, and mathematics standards from the newly adopted Common Core.  Once the standards and the content have been identified, the youth co-design team will work with experts and co-creators to conceptualize, design and test the interdisciplinary, independent study project.  The pilot testing and end result will reflect, and be supported by the youth co-design team.

(4) Develop key services and materials that demonstrate and support personalized learning and facilitation of the independent learning experiences.  Based on feedback from pilot-test participants, the youth co-design team, working with experts and teachers, will produce a set of instructional multi-media elements (for example video clips posted to YouTube) that demonstrate how NASA materials can be used by independent learners to achieve targeted learning standards.

(5)  All products and materials developed under the auspices of this grant shall become the property of NASA; CCSSO will continue to disseminate and promote use of the products as freely available instructional resources after the term of the grant is concluded.

The independent learning experiences will be positioned as models of innovation to support both NASA’s education goals and CCSSO’s NxGL (Next Generation Learning) priorities. The scope, duration, and complexity of the independent learning experiences will vary and will be developmentally appropriate for the individual learner. Work on the design of the specific experiences will be done in conjunction with the co-design teams mentioned above. Student learning will be assessed using multiple measures and NxGL assessment strategies. CCSSO will involve both formal and informal learning partners with students, including opportunities for the engagement of postsecondary faculty and students with secondary students and faculty.

CCSSO will work through state education agencies to increase awareness of and participation of the aforementioned 300-500 learners in these independent learning experiences in a variety of ways:

  • Through the Partnership for Next Generation Learning and the Innovation Labs Network (6 Lab states and 12 Affiliate states) who have entered into a network to design new elements of an education system that deliver high-quality, interest-driven, personalized learning
  • Through state virtual school leaders, who may embed these independent learning experiences in virtual school offerings and/or support implementation in traditional schools to enhance learning opportunities aligned to the Common Core Standards.
  • Through existing initiatives such as the Extended Learning Opportunities project at CCSSO, the Supporting Student Success initiative with the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Afterschool Technical Assistance Collaborative of statewide afterschool networks in 38 states.
  • Through the CCSSO Virtual Learning Magnet for Space Science and Mathematics
  • Through general communications, conference materials, and media outlets, such as CCSSO Chiefline
  • Through a variety of partners, such as the Southern Region Education Board and the International Association for K12 Online Learning

Delivery of the independent learning experiences will be achieved through existing infrastructures, such as state virtual schools and education technology networks. CCSSO will establish a central portal for information and communications, learner services, data collection, and collaboration. Professional development for teachers, mentors, and facilitators will be available online.

CCSSO will require a primary point of contact(s) at NASA, who can help identify potential targets for independent learning experiences and facilitate communication with product owners regarding access to content and rights to repurpose or present content in new ways using new learning technologies. We will assume that this is Todd Toth unless otherwise notified.

As needed, CCSSO will consult with state virtual learning leaders, state staff representing 21st century skills initiatives, STEM initiatives, and others to seek input on marketing and communicating the opportunities.

CCSSO is prepared to launch the project upon award.

Revised Timeline Highlights

October 2010 or upon approval

  • Approval of Mission- and Resource-aligned Independent Learning Experience
  • Final selection of Project Personnel
  • Initial work with youth co-design team

November – December 2010

  • Notification of CCSSO members of NASA-based Independent Learning Experience
  • Invitation for pilot-test participation to students through existing State Virtual networks as well as other CCSSO channels
  • Solicitation of, and selection of teachers
  • Professional development begins for participants
  • Student application and selection begins
  • Initial work on identification of appropriate NASA missions to support the Independent Learning Experience
  • Work begins on identifying existing NASA education materials to support learning targeted to standards in high school physics and mathematics

January 2011 – May 2011

  • Students begin to demonstrate understanding of targeted standards with strong co-design team support and the use of identified NASA learning resources.
  • Co-design team continues refinement of the independent learning process
  • Ongoing targeted, job-embedded professional development for teachers
  • Students begin publishing evidence of independent learning facilitated by the use of NASA materials.
  • Students begin to use identified missions as a resource for their next sets of targeted interdisciplinary standards
  • Ongoing iterative process is refined to support involved teachers and learners.
  • Plans for continuing and expanding independent learning opportunities using NASA materials and missions are discussed and refined

June 2011

  • Completion of evaluation of the Independent Learning Experience by independent evaluator
  • Publication of independent evaluation of the project


Physics -- Big Questions and Sub Topics

This is your gateway to the part of the course that deals with Physics, its relation to the NASA missions and to problem sets to help you understand and expand your learning about these concepts.  


Expand your understanding of physics by exploring an exciting NASA Mission -- the James Webb Space Telescope.

Your learning will be also be linked tothe core Common Core Content Standards for mathematics.

JWST Mathematics Core Content

This page will connect you to the part of the course that deals with mathematics, its relation to the NASA missions and to problem sets to help you understand and expand your learning about these concepts.  


Learning mathematics has never been more exciting than when it is linked to something of interest to you.  

Besides your increasing understanding of mathematics, follow this link to help you gain an understanding of physics and the JWST project.

Still have questions? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. We look forward to hearing from you.