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SSAI Aids Struggling Parents During the Pandemic by Providing Family Activities Based on NASA Science

Education and Outreach

The GLOBE Observer (GO) team exhibited exceptional flexibility and innovation in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic by finding creative ways to bring NASA Earth science into the homes of families through a novel series of activity videos, a new web activity page, and a family science guide. GLOBE Observer is part of the NASA Earth Science Education Collaborative funded under NASA’s Science Activation Program, largely supported by SSAI personnel.

As schools began to close and states went into quarantine, SSAI's GO team quickly recognized that the quarantine presented new opportunities to help struggling parents by providing family activities based on NASA science.


In early March 2020, SSAI staff on the GO team had a full outreach calendar ready to support NASA’s activities around Earth Day’s 50th anniversary with a month-long citizen science challenge and multiple large events. All plans for the spring were suddenly swallowed up by the global COVID-19 pandemic as schools began to close, states went into quarantine, and team members moved to home offices. 

The GO team quickly recognized that the quarantine presented new opportunities to help struggling parents by providing family activities based on NASA science. By the end of March, the GLOBE Observer team produced and released the first of 18 weekly videos (11 NASA at Home videos and 7 Cloud Challenge videos) that ran between March and August 2020. Each video highlighted an aspect of NASA Earth science and showed how to do an activity related to the concept at home. The activities utilized basic inexpensive materials to support accessibility for people in all economic categories. Many of the videos included team members’ children to show how to involve children of multiple ages and abilities in science, and all were closed-captioned for accessibility. Great effort was made to ensure a variety of racial backgrounds and genders were represented in the series so that underrepresented groups could “see themselves” in NASA science. 

All topics and activities were designed to build observation or classification skills that families could use to do citizen science once it was safe for them to go outside at their location. The videos were released on the NASA Earth Facebook page and archived on the GLOBE Program YouTube channel. During the initial Facebook release, team members were on hand to address questions in a live question and answer session.  


The GO team built a GLOBE Observer at Home page on the GO website to highlight the activities, provide printable instructions and materials, and provide more information about how to participate in citizen science through the GLOBE Observer site. The Cloud Challenge videos are now incorporated into a Clouds Family Guide so that the team can provide ongoing support to families doing science at home during the 2020-21 school year and beyond.  

The videos and associated content reached more than 11 million people, primarily through social media. They may also have arguably encouraged more people than ever before to participate in NASA citizen science. Even though people could not travel or, in some cases, go outside as often, GLOBE Observer received more than 35,000 more citizen scientist observations in 2020 than in 2019. By the end of May 2021, GLOBE Observer supported more than 200,000 registered volunteers.