Space science appeals to our fundamental curious human nature. Doing work in this field invites student engagement and drives learning through the pursuit of curious wonderings. This creates a space where, as an educator, I can encourage and coach students to make choices about the direction their learning proceeds. Once work is underway there is a context that allows for authentic, deep learning opportunities.
Over the past four years, a few close colleagues and myself have developed three main space science projects: high altitude balloon experiments, astronomy and astrophotography, and rocketry. Each of these projects have been longitudinal in nature, picking up where the last group has left off and pusing the boundaries of what we can achieve. This challenge to push beyond the frontiers of our efforts keeps the work fresh and rewarding, creating another layer of appeal to incoming students.
Each semester I am floored by what the students produce. Beautiful astrophotography images, $2 rockets that travel over 1000ft high, video footage from the edge of space...it goes on and on, with each successive project group trying to outdo the previous one. There is enough choice ingrained into these endeavors that once students decide on how to push the boundaries of what we've accomplished, the work itself becomes inherently self-directed.
We currently find ourselves at a point where we've reached funding obstacles that have prevented us from pushing our boundaries further. On a positive note, we've developed some creative ways to overcome these challenges. Despite this, at some point our funding challenges become prohibitive. I look forward to working and collaborating with others to generate ideas about how to support and maintain the momentum in these projects.