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We’re going to space…

November 22, 2010

So, since I wrote about exhibit 1 in what’s wrong with education today, It’s only fair that I write about an example of what is right with education.

It starts with this email I got from a student:

Mr.B,
I’ve already finished all of my corrections so I don’t really have any physics questions. But I was wondering if our class, or a group of people could actually launch an iphone into space. That video seemed really awesome and a fun thing to do. I think we could really make it happen. If you don’t have enough time to organize something like that, if you give me some information about how to get funding and things like that, I would be happy to get a group together and get started on it.

When I got this email, I was both thrilled and a bit overwhelmed, since I feel like I’ve already got so many projects going at school I can’t keep them straight, but I’m never one to turn down a student showing genuine interest in doing something extraordinary. And recently, I had discovered that my school has a lot of money available for service learning projects, so the student and I talked about how she might work with our 6th graders to make it a sort of group project to build upon their studies of weather.

Here’s a later reply she sent me:

I sent an email to Mrs. C, my 6th grade science teacher. I told her about the original experiment and how we want to get the younger students involved. I also sent her links to the Brooklyn space organization’s website and the article you sent me. I said that you were helping me out with this project, and asked her to tell the other 6th grade science teachers about the project. I will let you know if I get a reply. I really think this could work!

What’s amazed me is how much this student has taken the initiative in developing this project. I’d say I’ve spent less than 20 minutes trying to help this student with the project, mostly just pointing her in the right direction. Since then, she’s gotten the response below from our service learning coordinator:

M,
I cannot begin to tell you how enthused I am about your initiative. Mrs. C and I work together on another SL initiative in the fall semester and she shared your e-mail with me. I also knew about your overall idea from conversations with Mr. B. He is a great advocate.

I would like to sit in on those meetings with Mrs. C and think there is much potential for extensions for JH students. I look forward to your grant proposal. I also want to commend you for the work you have already put into this vision. I am behind you all the way. Can’t wait to meet you and work with you.
Ms. S

And M’s sixth grade teacher wrote back as well to say how excited she is about the project. So it looks like this project will fly—literally. A 9th grader is going to help a group of 6th graders design and launch a set of instruments to space onboard a weather balloon, taking photos and measurements of temperature and more along the way. And all I really needed to do was plant the seed.

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