This recent story is certainly fun for space enthusiasts to discover in the morning news! More importantly, it illustrates two principles fundamental to our philosophy of space education at ARES Learning.
For the program, the 9- to 12-year-old students designed an experiment in which epinephrine samples were placed into tiny cubes and sent to the edge of space. Once back on Earth, the samples were tested by researchers, who found that 13% had been “transformed into extremely poisonous benzoic acid derivatives,” according to a University of Ottawa statement.
First, this story exemplifies the importance of engaging a wide variety of people in space exploration efforts. If even elementary school students can contribute potentially life-saving research, what might be possible for motivated high school or university students — or on the other end of the spectrum, experienced retirees or those who need to reskill later in their career. Naturally, efforts to increase participation from women, indigenous people, and other demographics that are often underrepresented in STEM fields are also critically important to our shared success, as are efforts to improve international participation, especially from nations that do not yet have a space program.
Second, the story illustrates the power of space education in particular. While naysayers often object that students are not capable of this kind of meaningful real-world work, young people frequently prove the opposite… working without the limiting expectations of established authorities, teen innovators have introduced many world changing inventions. CNN offered a fantastic list here, including 16 year-old Boyan Slat’s solution to cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Asking students to merely turn in papers and wait for a grade (and maybe some feedback) is a colossal waste of human potential, especially over 12 or more years of school. Even if only a small percentage actually change the world, at the scale that students are mandated to be in school, that adds up. There are approximately 50 million K12 students in US schools and well over a billion students world-wide. Shouldn’t they all be engaged in humanity’s greatest shared endeavor of all time?
Cross-posted from the Human Space Program blog.
Learn more about the ARES Learning approach in the book Space Education: Preparing Students for Humanity's Multi-Planet Future by our co-founder Dr. Mark Wagner, and explore a complete Space Education Curriculum developed for high schools - it's a free and open education resource available to students, teachers, and enthusiasts everywhere.