Space has inspired adults and youth alike for millennia: Staring at the stars and wondering what lies among and beyond them provokes wonder, excitement, and often a desire to explore and learn. Today, the International Space Station (ISS) offers a new twist on this fundamental source for inspiration, as we watch our elite scientists and engineers live and work in space.
Beyond their natural power to engage youth, new spaceflight activities have further served as a basis for formal lesson plan development. Using space-based concepts in the classroom as a teaching tool helps to interest students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), improving our nation’s ability to be a leader in STEM fields and helping to shape the next generation into more capable leaders for the future.
Research onboard the ISS National Lab deepens the ability of space to be used as a tool for improving student performance in STEM studies. Experiments in biology, physics, chemistry, and Earth science happen every day on the space station, as do technology demonstrations in robotics, 3D printing, and other engineering areas. Some of the experiments even directly involve student scientists on the ground through programs that teach computer programming, plant science, laboratory techniques, and other STEM topics.
These experiments serve as a basis for students to see their standard classroom instruction in a new (cool) light as they learn how spaceflight influences the plants, bugs, fluids, and technologies that are already a part of their classroom lessons. Dozens of organizations have used the science onboard the ISS as fodder for new lesson plans—many freely available online and some even designed to be used right away, without advance preparation or atypical supplies.
Go to our education-focused website, www.spacestationexplorers.org, to learn more about the resources available to teachers, students, and parents and to check out this overview: “Launch Your School Year with STEAM!”