STEM education doesn’t stop when class ends. Getting kids engaged in science and learning is a process that really blossoms at home.
First, Make it Fun
“We need to make it easy for families to have fun with science” – Mariette DiChristina
The above quote comes from a New York Times article asking various STEM instructors how they would improve STEM education. Taking learning home and making it a fun family activity is something I believe is critical to really developing a love of learning. For anyone that loves space, that’s something AstroBox can help facilitate.
If you aren’t familiar with AstroBox, it is a subscription box of products and activities focused on active space science missions and astronomical events, delivered once a quarter to subscribers. (You can also purchase a single box to try it out, or give as a gift.)
Oddly enough, I didn’t first envision AstroBox being for STEM learning. My initial goal was to bring something cool to people like me: the self professed space and astronomy geeks.
The funny thing is, that geeks like to learn – it’s fun, it’s inspiring, and we generally get a kick out of it! So AstroBox from the start reflected this: it was about the fun of space science, and learning new things. It didn’t take long before some intrepid teachers started using AstroBox in their classrooms, and parents started buying it for their kids. It became obvious what I created was helping to fill a void.
Learning Beyond The Classroom
“Learning outside the classroom and outside the school has important contribution to make to science education.” – UNESCO: Current Challenges in Basic Science Education
I’m a firm believer that experiences outside the classroom can have just as much or more influence as those inside the classroom. To many families, that means the occasional trip to a museum, a STEM fair, or a star party. These are all excellent activities to do, but I feel like activities that can be done at home get overlooked.
Often times, that’s because life gets in the way: There is dinner to be made, homework to get done, and a hundred other errands and chores to complete. But in-between all of those things, there’s still a desire to learn, to grow, to try something different, to learn about something new, and to do more than just read about it in a book or see a program on TV. We want the freedom to touch these ideas, try them out, and explore.
Make Learning Tangible and Tactile
Young people can learn most readily about things that are tangible and directly accessible to their senses—visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic. With experience, they grow in their ability to understand abstract concepts, manipulate symbols, reason logically, and generalize. – From Principles of Learning
With AstroBox, I have tried to combine physical objects, like a plush planet, or a piece of a meteorite, with information and activities that make them more than a simple object, but something with depth, and story. I try to make every AstroBox, and every item in that box, a part of a journey of discovery. Small wonder then that this appeals so strongly to educators and families alike. It isn’t lesson plans and structured learning, it’s free-form exploration that suggests many different paths to discover something new. Where I include a book or video, it’s designed to be first and foremost enjoyable and engaging, because learning flows naturally from there.
Art & Science Go Together
‘I’d like to see STEM turned into STEAM. ’ – John Maeda
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math make up STEM. Adding Art, STEAM, introduces an interdisciplinary element that can be more important than you might imagine. Art is about expression and imagination, but it also has it’s own set of guidelines and processes. Those elements of imagination and expression have profound benefits to the more quantitative disciplines of STEM.
It took imagination to conceive of how humans could send a spacecraft to Pluto. It also took imagination to figure out how to apply all of the technology, engineering, and math into a mission and a spacecraft to accomplish a set of scientific objectives. Finally, it takes expression to interpret scientific data in ways that are both accurate and meaningful. Science and Art as tightly intertwined, and why I include elements of both in AstroBox. The two aren’t opposites, they are compliments. STEAM is where it’s at!
Make it Meaningful
“Science curriculum must be made relevant to students by framing lessons in contexts that give facts meaning, teach concepts that matter in students’ lives, and provide opportunities for solving complex problems.” – Effective K-12 Science Instruction
On the surface, exploring Pluto or the makeup of Jupiter isn’t directly relevant to most student’s lives. For many students (of all ages), it’s still mind-blowing and inspiring, and when something can grab a learner’s attention and focus, that makes it incredibly relevant.
Simply trying to grasp the scale of the solar system is a challenging feat, much less the scale of the cosmos. Space really is the final frontier, and it will be the generation growing up today that will likely be the first to step out beyond the Earth, and set foot on Mars and other worlds. In the words of Carl Sagan, “The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.“
I view AstroBox as my small contribution to help inspire that next step, and the people that will lead it.
Join Our Voyage of Discovery
I hope you’ll give AstroBox a try for yourself, your kids, or give it as a gift to other family members that have a love of space and a sense of wonder!
The next AstroBox ships in early December, and makes an excellent Christmas gift. Through the end of October, we will send you a 12″ inflatable LED moon created from NASA photography as a welcome gift when you subscribe to AstroBox. Order Now or learn more about AstroBox.