The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Estes Industries, and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) have joined together to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers through a new, multi-year initiative that will bring research-based aerospace education to thousands of classrooms nationwide.
Launched in April, Exploration Generation (ExGen) will provide K-12 educators with free lesson plans and curriculum storylines to help guide students as they explore various concepts in aerospace, engineering, and rocketry. High-quality professional learning experiences will also be developed to support teachers’ use of the ExGen instructional materials.
Even as the U.S. aerospace and defense industry leads the world in innovation, it faces challenges with the workforce: a skills gap among STEM-literate students entering the industry, a need for greater participation by women and ethnic minorities, and a growing knowledge gap from early retirements.
Based on the 2021 AIAA State of the Industry Report, nearly 50 percent of respondents believe an increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion by aerospace industry employers will help increase the pipeline of skilled, competent aerospace professionals.
“We are excited about our collaboration with Estes and NSTA to inspire a new space age generation. Our shared commitment to strengthening the aerospace profession is driving us to inspire the future workforce,” said Dan Dumbacher, executive director, AIAA. “We all recognize the need for a diverse and robust STEM next generation who use what they learn today to innovate and invent tomorrow. These new resources will help even more educators join us in shaping the future of aerospace.”
To help educators provide a more collaborative, student-centered learning environment where ideas are accessible and engaging for all students, each lesson plan, called NSTA Daily Dos, and the curriculum storylines, called NSTA Units, are grounded in sense-making. Through this approach, students actively engage in a learning experience to make sense of phenomena in a way that aligns with their natural curiosity.
“Now more than ever, it is important for students to have access to high-quality learning experiences that expand their perspectives about science,” said Erika Shugart, Ph.D., executive director, NSTA. “Aerospace and rocketry provide unique opportunities for educators to engage students in STEM concepts. We are thrilled to collaborate with AIAA and Estes to provide educators with phenomena-driven, research-based instructional materials that spark students’ curiosity and motivate them to figure out for themselves why things happen and how the world works.”
In May, ExGen will unveil its first three Daily Dos developed for the middle school level. The NSTA Unit, designed for grades 6-8, will be available in October. ExGen will expand with additional resources for elementary and high school educators next year. Professional learning for educators will begin this fall with additional programs available in the future.
To ensure this program is widely accessible to as many students as possible, Estes will match the AIAA contribution to the program in the first year of launch through in-kind donations to participating schools and continue in all subsequent years.
“We wish to help all interested participants in the implementation of this curricula and break financial barriers as much as we are able,” said Nicole Bayeur, director of education, Estes Industries. “It is our top priority that education is just and equitable for all.”
In addition, Estes will manage a grant program to provide eligible Title 1 schools with funding to purchase the supplies needed to facilitate these lessons in the classroom. Details on how to apply will be announced later this year.
This news originally appeared online as a press release.
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