Mars exploration made strong advances in 2021. There were exciting missions to explore the Red Planet by several countries, such as China, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. The exploratory missions include analyzing the atmosphere, mapping out the planet’s magnetic field, searching for water and ice, and scouting the land and rock formations. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) provides insight into their Mars missions, allowing space exploration enthusiasts to share in the exhilaration of new discoveries. Teachers can help spark interest in space exploration for their students by incorporating robotics in their curriculum. While the overall focus is on Mars, skills such as coding and programming are also taught – skills that are in demand for jobs in the STEM fields.
We are living in an age of Gen Z-ers who, as digital natives, are in tune with technological advances in communication such as social media, gaming, and conducting research almost exclusively using the internet. Their avenues for engagement are changing and teachers who are increasing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) instruction in their classrooms are exploring ways to incorporate more hands-on, immersive learning experiences that combine innovative technology with real-world connections. The motivation for doing so? To see their students’ active participation in experiments and projects, as well as strengthening the four Cs to 21st-century skills: Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity.
The value of emphasizing STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) is essential since it impacts just about every facet of our lives - checking the news on your mobile phone, using video conferencing software to facilitate meetings, or programming our home alarm systems are all everyday activities influenced by STEM innovations. When we can make connections between topics being learned and our own lives, the learning tends to stick in our minds longer. It seems reasonable then that the study of robotics is integrated into STEM education programs since robotics influences many areas of life – construction, defense, health, maintenance, security, and more. Of course, robotics also allows for learning beyond our general experiences such as space exploration.
Neil Armstrong and landing on the moon. The space shuttle Challenger. The International Space Station. Pictures of ice from the Mars rovers. These are the different things that come to my mind when thinking of space exploration and education. These are topics that have probably been discussed, researched, and studied in classrooms everywhere. But how often is space exploration a part of student learning?
This pandemic isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Schools are working towards creating an environment where students can learn at home by equipping them with the necessary technology to make the “virtual classroom” a reality. Unfortunately, STEM learning doesn’t appear to be a focus and it needs to be.