Learn About Space To Thrive on Earth: Inspiring Education Projects
It is commonly held that the invention of the mass education system was a key Industrial Revolution innovation which facilitated the rise of a more highly-skilled society able to adapt to the changes that era brought. More recently though, the constant growth in the amount of knowledge and data being produced has brought scrutiny to the core tenet that 12-16 years of training can give a student everything they need. Domo.com reported in August 2017 that 90% of all data in existence at that time had been created in only the 2 years prior. Many schools and educators are reacting to this level of disruption by switching to big-picture projects that draw inspiration from space to help learners think beyond in ways that will enable them succeed in their lives here on Earth. Let?s learn about two from Japan and Australia:
Launched only recently, the Mars Lab is based at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia. It has been created to engage high school students with how to search for life on Mars and with the technologies which can make that search possible. The lab actually consists of two parts – a ?Mars Yard? (a re-creation of the Martian surface that students can access via teleoperation), and a robotics lab established within the museum. As a research collaboration between the University of NSW, the University of Sydney and the Powerhouse Museum, it has presented students from locations in other states with a unique chance to learn from frontline professionals. Students have even been involved in a ?pun-off? with well-known astronaut Commander Chris Hadfield.
One of the main goals of the Mars Lab is the creating and testing of rovers in the Mars Yard space. Students undertake Australian Curriculum-aligned astrobiological missions and evaluations using rovers and their sophisticated on-board instruments, all of which can be controlled remotely either over the internet from within school classrooms, or from the on-site ?Mission Control Room?. The goal of the lab is to span all areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) using ?real world science experiences, live interactions between young people, scientists and engineers, [that] represent a platform upon which students develop understandings, pose their own questions and drive their own learning? in ways that will set them apart in the real world beyond their schooling. Learn more at themarslab.org.
Space Nation has previously supported and reported about a space seed growing project that involved radish plants (see here). Another project from Japan that focuses on Sunflower seeds has also seen students learn a lot from being exposed to real world science. The project was an initiative of JAXA?s (the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) Space Education Centre, which recognizes that space is a unique area of interest, imagination and inspiration for young learners and has the potential to “ignite children’s curiosity toward the nature, life and the universe and to inspire them to achieve higher goals.” The center also believes strongly in ?’The Spirit of Craftsmanship? which is necessary for children as their method to create and formalize their spirit of curiosity and adventure ? [once] stimulated, these children will work independently without the help of adults to further their knowledge?.
The project made just such an opportunity available via JAXA Spaceflight Seeds Kids, a program ?designed primarily to promote interest in science and give inspiration to school children?. Schools in the program were given the resources to grow sunflower seeds which had flown on board the ISS (International Space Station) for nine months as a start to ‘touch the Universe’. Students grew the seeds back here on Earth and compared their progress with seeds that had not experienced micro-gravity. They were also gifted an hour-glass each filled with simulated lunar regolith soil to mark their participation, and the program also extended to tomato seeds from Indonesia, and Impatiens seeds in New Zealand. Such wide exposure to ISS-level learning matches perfectly with inspiring students to be the kinds of independent workers that upcoming jobs in a more automated and space-influenced future will require. Read the official account and more about JAXA?s past education programs here.
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