Do you want to send your students on a space mission? Engaging students in the STEM classroom can include a variety of strategies. Making connections to experiences and careers outside the classroom is a great way to show students their coursework in action.
As we prepare students to solve the challenges of both today and tomorrow, The Virtual High School has a special program for students. The Space Station Academy is a program consisting of formal and informal curriculum for educators. It launches students into space to explore different STEM topics. This program uses the International Space Station as a platform to view Earth from Space. At the same time, students will study science and engineering.
Student Engagement in the STEM Classroom
Diving into this resource is particularly timely for me. Just a few weeks ago I had the chance to hear Clayton Anderson speak at the Nebraska State Literacy Association’s Annual Conference. I was in attendance as a featured speaker and heard Clayton Anderson talk about his journey from student to astronaut. He shared his experience persevering through tough coursework and eventually landing a spot in the NASA astronaut training program.
In my book, Tasks Before Apps: Designing Rigorous Learning in a Tech-Rich Classroom, I discuss curiosity in the classroom. One area of focus is the importance of high-quality digital learning experiences:
“Our goal on the journey of thoughtful technology integration is to take the best practices of the past to the next level with digital tools. We want to build on the foundation of traditional tasks to empower students as wonderers and answer-seekers. As students inquire about matters both on their own and with our guidance, we can help them come to see tablets, smartphones, and computers as portals to an entire world of innovative problem-solving.” (p. 43)
As you think about the topics that spark students’ interests — and cause them to persevere when coursework is particularly challenging — you might want to explore this new program!
Space Station Academy
The Space Station Academy program is a unique opportunity for students. There are two online programs students can participate in this school year. The first is called Mission to the International Space Station. This program takes students on a virtual mission to the International Space Station. Students will explore Earth from space and learn about how the International Space Station operates.
This mission gives students an opportunity to see how the International Space Station operates. They’ll see what life is like for astronauts there and how they conduct work from space. It focuses primarily on observations of the Earth through photography. Students who participate in the program will learn about and use the same type of software used by the astronauts on the International Space Station too.
Science from Space Course
In addition to this informal learning experience, there is a formal semester-long Science from Space course. In this course, designed for middle school students, your students will explore a variety of science topics. These topics include physical science, life science, Earth science, and engineering.
In this program, students work in cohorts of cadets to take part in discussions and participate in different activities. These experiences can include hands-on lab activities and design challenges. Some of the areas students explore include the physics and engineering of space travel. They will also look at the effects of microgravity on the body. Another area of focus is the impact of human activity on the planet.
If you haven’t heard of The Virtual High School before, they are a non-profit organization that offers a variety of programming for students. You can learn more about the Space Station Academy and their commitment to STEM education by heading over to their landing page!