The JASON Project(202) 857-7700
Contact Karen Rooker for NGS registration
Our family just signed up for our fifth "electronic field trip" with the JASON Project. It has evolved into our winter ritual - many cozy winter days have been spent curled up with the curriculum and literature recommendations. I can't imagine a more up-to-date scientific learning opportunity, not to mention the literature, geography, social studies, art, history, math and writing components.
The JASON Project is the brainchild of Dr. Robert Ballard. An explorer for over 20 years, he is best known for discovering the Titanic. He had the idea for JASON after the airing of a television program featuring his 1985 Titanic discovery. After that program, he received over 30,000 letters from children asking "is there any way I can go with you on your next adventure?" This year is the thirteenth JASON expedition. Having had the experience for the past four years, my kids would agree that it just keeps getting better. In 2002, JASON XIII goes to Alaska to study the frozen tundra.
Students from all over the world (including Canada, the United Kingdom, Bermuda, and Mexico) have the opportunity to participate. In Virginia, we are in a region serviced by the National Geographic Society (NGS) in Washington D.C. This means we travel to Washington for the live "telepresence conference" which occurs every spring. This conference or, "electronic field trip," is the grand finale of a six-month focus. You receive the curriculum in the fall, determine what areas you want to study and enjoy!
The technology behind this endeavor is simply amazing. Imagine, if you will, watching a movie of a scuba diver exploring underwater sealife. Now, expand your imagination to being able to interact (or witness others interacting) with that diver. You are able to hear the questions and answers as they are spoken.
USA Today states: "This is education at its best."
The Christian Science Monitor has the following to say: "The JASON Project is part of a burgeoning movement to use advanced telecommunications technology to enliven education through 'you-are-there' experiences. But in its scope and outreach, JASON is the leader in the telepresence field."
In the JASON information, you will find that the program is tailored for students in grades 4 - 9. I tend to stay away from age/grade specifications and have observed younger as well as older learners finding something for them within the program. The good news is that you can easily adapt the information to your kids' interests and levels. Due to the multi-disciplinary approach to the curriculum, you don't have to complete everything. However, we have learned that the more we do with the curriculum, the more we get out of the experience. Last year, we did more than ever, and for the first time we all agreed that the final actual "telepresence" was not the high point for us.
For me, the most challenging part of the JASON Project is the "teacher training." A mandatory seven-hour training is required for all teachers. This is where we receive the curriculum (245 pages long this year), introduction video, and internet access code number. (It is just so hard for me to sit at a desk this long.)
Another potential downside is the audience. When you sign up for the telepresence conference, you choose from three different time slots every day for two weeks. In years past the entire auditorium was spellbound with what was happening. Last year, a very large school group (1/4 of the seats) came in with an "attitude." They were high schoolers free from school for the day who had obviously completed little of the curriculum. Their comments, disruptions, and plain silly questions distracted terribly from the experience...but it was still worth it. One hint would be to schedule your visit for the last program of the day - most school groups have to schedule earlier in the day to return home in time to miss the buses.
One does not need to use the internet to participate in JASON. We did so for the first time last year and it allowed for even more learning - but there is plenty without it. Because of the internet, we could interact with the authors of the novels, International Space Station scientists, and others.
There has been a significant price increase for participation in JASON XIII this year. Still, if you register through National Geographic, you can save significantly. Originally, the increase was to $105.00. An August 2001 correspondence with Mr. Dan Beaupre, regional coordinator, quotes him as saying, "In light of the special circumstances of homeschoolers, we have revised the new pricing policy. JASON homeschoolers may pay $45 for curriculum and training, and then pay $2 per person attending the NGS telecast." This decision illustrates National Geographic's continuing commitment to make this program accessible to homeschoolers. I have always found NGS to be flexible and supportive of homeschoolers.
And since you have to be in D.C. anyway, take advantage of the Explorer's Hall Museum, which is free and adjacent to the auditorium where the fieldtrip occurs. Budget more than an hour for Explorer's Hall. I had to insist we leave before my kids were ready because of the escalating parking bill. Remember that you will be close to the Mall so plan some Smithsonian adventures as well. Last year we did the Newseum. It was great.
October 25, 2003: Update from Dan Beaupre at National Geographic - "We are thrilled to have the number of homeschooling families that we get; it increases every year! The homeschooled students continue to represent the best-prepared students we see involved in the program. Hats off to all those dedicated parents doing the JASON Project! We are excited about the new year and the rich content related to the Central American rain forest." In an effort to remain affordable for homeschoolers, the JASON XV price remains the same as listed in the article above.
July 2, 2004: National Geographic has announced that the next JASON Expedition will be Disappearing Wetlands exploring the bayous of Louisiana. The telecasts will be presented at National Geographic, in DC, January 31 February 5, 2005. Training sessions are scheduled to begin in August 2004. The discount fee of $45 for homeschoolers continues to be offered. Registration packets are now available by calling (202) 857-7700 or emailing Jason@ngs.org.