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Why Start Early?: The First Steps of Fostering Life-Long Learning

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Middle and high school are crucial years of a students’ life, both in their academic endeavors and personal strides. While students with motivational and accelerating resources may fulfill their passion for learning during these developmental years, those without these opportunities, or those lacking supportive mentors, may feel aloof in the classroom or stressed about their future. Recent developments in technology, entailing the shift from traditional materials to online settings (video communication, textbook PDFs, etc.), have provided great educational opportunities for students, yet may also leave hands-on learners and those lacking support at a loss for academic excitement. But what if there was a way to get students engaged and mold passionate learners at an early age in the classroom, to where they could then succeed in their future ventures? At the Aerospace and Innovation Academy, we’re doing just that, by encouraging students to complete high-level research, lead and work with their peers through more difficult projects, attend networking events, and ultimately express their passions regardless of age. For teachers that may not be comfortable investigating/constructing CubeSats and are looking for manageable ways to promote classroom engagement, or for students that feel academically stuck or unmotivated, these small tips will ensure that this school year will be out of this world.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to get students exposed to real-world communication and situations is to attend presentations and networking conferences that permit student participation. While some may be costly or intangible, those that are local or virtual are often manageable and can easily spark inspiration and eagerness in diverse students. By finding these conferences and networking with other teachers, educators can build meaningful connections while also encouraging their students to write applicable and intensive research papers. Several conferences tend to be STEM-based, entailing that, with encouragement and personalization, students will be able to write about topics that they never knew applied to real-world problems/circumstances (ex: growing food for astronauts, finding life on other planets, building efficient rocket models). Additionally, promoting the formation of balanced teams allows students to form meaningful bonds with their peers for a common cause, while also learning the importance of teamwork and composure during difficult tasks. Don’t think that these conferences are just limited to life science and engineering research, however, as data science (including AI and coding) and entrepreneurial philanthropy also earn a place in several of the larger events. Students that lack these in-school resources can always take up networking and research as an extracurricular, or find local organizations and labs (including the local/regional science fair) that can suit their needs. Attending even smaller or inaugural conferences is a great place to start, and having students prepared to share their own material on both class-reflected topics and individual interests is just as significant.

But could these opportunities be offered to all students, or are research investigations and networking conferences limited to private, gifted, learning institutions? The National Association of Gifted Children helps to tackle this question by emphasizing the many differences between students; children and adolescents possess different strengths and needs, entailing that these diverse traits can form meaningful teams regardless of the environment. Ultimately, all members should have an opportunity to complete meaningful and passionate work even if they possess varying familiarity levels with the material. Larger classroom sizes may make enforcing the attendance of conferences or writing research papers difficult, but students should be trained how to write technical papers and interact with their peers regardless of conference interest. With appropriate motivation from teachers, along with the rightly-sought resources and approaches, middle school students will thrive as young entrepreneurs, engineers, and scientists and possibly continue this path in the future. Curious to see these life-long learning tools in action? We know some middle school students who have truly reached for the stars.

In this episode of “Let’s Go to Space: BLUESKY Learning,” Episode 77: Student Project Spotlight: From Planting the Moon to AI and Coding, we meet with Wolfpack members and eighth graders Arnav Joseph and Daniel Levy, who’s middle school experiences emulate how intensive projects and research should not be limited to higher forms of education. Arnav and Daniel share insightful experiences and advice to students who may be wary of starting large projects. Arnav stresses the importance of astronaut nutritional sustainability, as he endeavors to spread his biological research at several future conferences. Daniel also shares his passion for presenting his findings, which are based around coding and similar forms of education, and hopes to share his knowledge with younger students. Both students’ passions may seem both distant and lofty; but with strong goals and the right mentorship, both also emphasize the importance of having these experiences at a ripe age. Learn more about Arnav Joseph and Daniel Levy, along with their out-of-this-world projects, or visit our other weekly podcasts to hear from other speakers, by clicking the link above. Also make sure to check out our website to learn more about becoming a member of the Aerospace and Innovation Academy, where you can join us in our quest to go to space.

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