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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
Launching Argonautica in the U.S.

The Ocean Surface Topography Education and Public Outreach (OST-EPO) Team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory supports the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason and Ocean Surface Topography Mission projects. Project Managers have encouraged the team to seek out and cultivate more projects and programs that can be done in collaboration with other outreach groups, particularly with our French counterparts at CNES, CLS and AVISO. In this spirit, the joint teams have released educational products that are available in both French and English.

Joint Product Development

Several products were written in French and later translated to English. For example, the French publishing house Biblioteque Travail (BT) educational book, "TOPEX/Poseidon et Jason-1 Mesurers des Oceans", was introduced in the U.S. as "TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1: Surveyors of the Oceans". The English version has been distributed widely in the U.S.

Cover image of the BT book in French and English
Figure 1 The English version of the BT book has been distributed widely in the U.S.

The popular Jason board game, "Voyage on the High Seas" recently made its debut in French. The game was originally developed by the NASA/JPL Space Place team in conjunction with the JPL EPO team as a fun and engaging way to bring marine education to students ages 8-12. In the U.S. the game has been successful in both formal and informal education venues, and although the target audience is rather specific, the game has proven to be fun for the entire family.

Argonautica in the U.S.

The BT book and the board game represent two of many JPL/CNES education products. Although there were joint products, a broad, collaborative educational program seemed elusive. Then we were introduced to a CNES-sponsored education program based on a theme of oceanography and the use of satellites. The theme provides the motivation for helping to improve our understanding of oceans and marine life.

Argonautica [Canceill et al., 2003] a mature and proven educational program developed by CNES appeared to be a readily accessible and reasonable forum in which to launch U.S. participation in a major joint initiative.

Argonautica brings oceanography directly into the classroom by creating an innovative working environment where students become researchers. In France, over 50 teachers and 12 companies support more than 1500 students in a number of projects and hands-on activities and experiments tailored to the age group of the students.

We recognized that the Argonautica concept fit well into U.S. science education standards and that such a program could be appropriate for introduction into classrooms here. We were, however, faced with a major obstacle. When we visited the Argonautica website, we were quickly reminded that the entire site was in French, and there was not yet an English version. With a limited knowledge of the language, we realized we would need a different strategy to accomplish our goal. In spite of the language barrier, we remained committed to offering this excellent program to U.S. schools. Ultimately we decided that a U.S. school with students who were fluent in both French and English was needed.

Lycee International de Los Angeles: Almost a Next Door Neighbor

A local school in Monrovia, California met the requirements. The Lycee International de Los Angeles (LILA) is a French/American school with four campuses in Southern California ( The Monrovia campus instructs students in grades K-5 (ages 5-10), and because of its close proximity, is ideally suited to partnering with JPL and CNES. After the JPL team introduced the Argonautica program, the CNES Education Coordinator met with the JPL team and school director to give a detailed presentation. From this meeting an international collaboration was born.

U.S. Argonautica Participation Launched through LILA

The LILA Monrovia students will participate in Argonautica using data from the Argonautica website to track the migration patterns of marine animals. They will focus on animals in or near the Antarctic to complement another activity. Dr. Peter Lawson, a JPL scientist and LILA parent spent two weeks in the Antarctic conducting research. While there, he kept daily journals and took photographs documenting his activities. The trip was posted to the LILA website, (, and the LILA students and teachers communicated daily via email with him. The LILA group will participate in the 2004 Argonautica student conference in La Rochelle and will present the Antarctic adventure to fellow participants.

A second LILA campus has recently joined the Argonautica project. The Los Feliz campus in Los Angeles has enlisted ten students in grades 8-11 (ages 13-17) plus two 5th grade students from the Monrovia campus to be a team that will design and build a buoy that will be launched and tracked in real time by the Argos satellite system. The students must work together to decide what additional parameters they want to measure and will construct and install on their buoy, sensors to obtain those measurements. LILA faculty and JPL engineers will advise the student team. The EPO team is coordinating the program for JPL.

The JPL/LILA Earth Science Collaboration

While preparing the students for participation in Argonautica, JPL and LILA have also developed the JPL/LILA Earth Science Seminar Series. Through this collaboration, JPL Earth Scientists give monthly seminars on topics tied to the school curriculum and JPL research activities. In some cases, the seminars are conducted as visits to JPL. In a January 2004 visit, coordinators took advantage of the excitement surrounding the Mars' landings to stress the importance of Earth science to the study of other planets. The OST Outreach team coordinates the JPL portion of this collaboration for JPL's Earth Science Public Engagement Program.

LILA students, teachers, parents and EPO members
Figure 2. LILA students, teachers, and parents with members of the JPL Earth Science Public Engagement team during a JPL visit as part of the Earth Science Seminar Series

The JPL OST EPO team continues to support joint outreach activities and the LILA in its important role as the pilot school for Argonautica in the U.S.

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