Space educators program launches

Rocketlab education program lead Felicity Powell with Tauranga Boys’ College teacher Andrew Corney and Rocketlab space ambassadors Katherine Chen and Likhitha Satrasala. Photo: Taylor Rice.

A Tauranga Boys’ College teacher is among the first to join a Rocketlab program that aims to reverse concerning statistics in students’ learning of math and science in New Zealand.

Opening up applications to join their Space Educators Program, now teachers can connect with Rocketlab’s space ambassadors who can liaise and provide information from the wider Rocketlab team, including people who are directly working on space projects.

Tauranga Boys’ College teacher Andrew Corney hopes to share resources that fuse science, technology, engineering and maths, known as STEM, lesson plans with engaging real world information from Rocketlab.

Rocketlab education program lead Felicity Powell says educators who’ve joined the program will come to her team with their ideas for a lesson plan. “We are then able to fuse this with the context of space. We achieve this by looking at their lesson plan and seeing who’d be best on our team for them to connect with.

“Recently, we have paired Andrew with our project manager of building our latest rocket, through a lesson he planned on design thinking.”

Felicity says the next rocket project manager can now directly provide information to Andrew’s class, “using real-world information on how he uses design thinking to build the new rocket”.

On the back of Kiwi students recording their worst-ever results in the International Mathematics and Science Study, Felicity says there is immense pressure on teachers with Covid-19.

“We’re looking to amplify the good work they’re doing with access to these resources they may not otherwise have.”

Space ambassadors such as Katherine Chen and Likhitha Satrasala are responsible for taking Rocketlab’s information to students in schools, and to teachers who are part of the program.

“Our job is focused on educating and making people excited about space,” says Rocketlab space ambassador Katherine Chen.

Felicity and Andrew are excited to see changes in the wider education space and how this has enabled new approaches to making learning more engaging for students.

“It’s very special centering learning around the context first. It is a holistic approach that makes a captivating experience for kids,” says Felicity.

“Bringing real world context to what we’re doing is very exciting,” says Andrew. “Most kids are taught how to do fractions using pizzas. The challenge with schools is providing real world context, and this program has enabled us to do that.

“Linking our lesson plans to real world problems not only makes learning more engaging, but it shows the kids that it is a pathway that is available to them.”

“They have a rocket launching company in their own home country, and being able to be directly involved with that and potentially see a future for them is very inspiring for kids.”

Felicity says it’s not necessarily all about space either. “It’s about real world examples that are from a company right here in Aotearoa that the kids can relate to.”

As Rocketlab recruits more educators to join this program, they hope to inspire and help even more kids to reach for the stars.

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