Archive for the ‘General’ Category
Are They Just Right? The Discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 Planetary System and Their ‘Goldilocks’ Potential
In the past several months science educators teaching astronomy and space exploration probably haven’t needed a lot to motivate science students who are endlessly fascinated with the possibility of life outside our own planet. The recent discovery of seven planets around TRAPPIST-1 (a star named for the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope in Chile) has provided teachers new seeds to plant into the imagination of young minds interested in exoplanetary discovery. eLibrary can help feed that imagination with loads of resources.
In May 2016 researchers in Chile reported in the journal Nature the discovery of three planets with sizes and temperatures similar to Venus and Earth orbiting around an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years away in the Aquarius constellation. Earlier this year NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, along with the Very Large Telescope Array at Paranal in Chile, confirmed two of those planets, and then found five more exoplanets. Of the seven, three are presently believed to fall within the habitability zone (the ‘goldilocks’ zone), that area around a star in which rocky planets may hold liquid water and harbor life.
TRAPPIST-1, the star which these planets orbit, is classified as an ultra-cool dwarf. The star is so cool that water in liquid form could exist on planets that are even closer in orbit than Mercury is to our sun. In the years to come, if further observations reveal oxygen in any of the planet’s atmosphere, which could point to photosynthesis of plants, there is a good probability life can exist on these planets.
eLibrary has recent news information on this discovery as well as Research Topics on exoplanets, habitable planets, and general information on astronomy, cosmology, and space exploration that can help your students dive deeper into the questions of life existing elsewhere in our galaxy and beyond.
Here are some things scientists know thus far about TRAPPIST-1 and its planets:
- All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planet’s orbit is closer than Mercury’s orbit around our sun.
- TRAPPIST-1 is much cooler and redder than the sun, and only slightly larger than Jupiter, which is about a tenth of the size of the sun.
- Because the planets are so close to TRAPPIST-1, all seven planets appear to be in a gravitational lock. That is, one side of each planet permanently faces the star, just as our moon is gravitationally locked and we only see one side of it.
- One year on the closest planet orbiting TRAPPIST-1 is equal to just 1.5 earth days. The farthest planet’s yearly orbit is equal to 18.8 earth days.
- If you were standing on one of the planets, each of the other planets would appear prominently in the sky, and at times appearing much larger than the moon does in our sky.
- TRAPPIST-1 is a mere 40 light-years away. In layman’s terms, that’s still 235 trillion miles away.
Young students are curious about Earth and discovering ways that they can help the planet. As adults, it’s our responsibility to teach them how and inspire their ideas. Classrooms and media centers are ideal places for this type of learning and exploration. And Earth Day, which is April 22, is the perfect time!
SIRS Discoverer and its April Spotlight of the Month on Earth Day can assist in planning for this significant global holiday. Founded in 1970, Earth Day began and continues as a day of environmental education and action.
In honor of our Earth, here are some activities that promote awareness and appreciation of nature, recycling, and the environment:
1. Plant a garden and compost.
An outdoor garden is a great classroom. Gardens can help students develop listening, comprehension, and collaboration skills, as well as provide a solid foundation in Earth sciences. Try an activity that helps students understand the parts of a plant and how they grow. The printable PDF version of the associated Teacher’s Guide provides information, photos, and activities. You can help your students dig deeper and understand more about plant growth with this article and associated activities on composting.
2. Recycle and reuse.
Tell your students to pay attention to the amount of paper and plastic bottles they use. Guide them to reuse and recycle such items appropriately. For some hands-on learning, your students can learn the art of recycling with this activity, which provides age-appropriate ideas and instructions for recycling newspapers into papier-mache, collages, or weavings. Or, impress them with the power of nature, and show them great ways people are using wind, water, and sunlight to generate “clean energy.”
3. Write letters to local representatives and start petitions.
Much of environmental protection is done through laws and legislation. As a lesson in civics, organize a student letter writing campaign to a local or state representative. Allow your students to vocalize their beliefs on how the planet should be treated. Another idea is to sign or start a petition for climate change and clean energy.
4. Walk and bike. Don’t drive.
Fossil fuels contribute to many environmental problems. Because it can be done on a small scale, encourage your students to use their bodies as a form of green transportation. Plus it’s great exercise!
5. Learn about coral reefs and other worldwide environmental issues.
We can also help the Earth–and help young students help the Earth–by learning about what is happening around the globe, from the deteriorating condition of our oceans’ coral reefs, which can lead to discussions about the warming of our planet, to the destructive and growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which emphasizes the necessity of recycling and limiting our use of plastics.
Celebrate life on Earth, and Earth itself, this Earth Day. If it is important to you, it will be important to the children you reach!
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Calling all History teachers! Don’t let this week go by without talking to your students about World War I. This Thursday, April 6, marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ declaration of war on Germany. On April 2nd, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson had asked Congress for the declaration, stating that it would be a “war to end all wars” and that it would “make the world safe for democracy.” All-out war had been raging in Europe since August 1914. Wilson had kept America out of the fighting, even after the sinking of the Lusitania in May 1915, which had 128 Americans on board. Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine (U-Boat) warfare on all commercial ships heading toward Britain. In addition, British Intelligence intercepted a secret German diplomatic communication, called the Zimmermann Telegram, which proposed a military alliance between Germany and Mexico. These events, plus the fact that the United States had loaned massive amounts of money to the allies and feared it would not get that money back if the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria) won, tipped the scales in favor of war.
The Selective Service Act was signed May 18, 1917. In the United States, over 9-and-a half million men, ages 21 to 31, signed up at their local draft boards. One of those men was my grandfather, Thomas Young Mason. Tom was a 30-year-old farmer from Logan County, Kentucky, when he signed his draft card on June 5, 1917. The reason I know this is because I found a copy of his draft card while searching AncestryLibrary.com, available via ProQuest. I was surprised at how easy it was to find information about my grandfather. I can’t say that I know a lot about his time during the Great War. He died years before I was born, and my family never was much for telling war stories. I do, however, have some nice photographs of him in his WWI uniform. I also have, at home in my basement, the very hat he was wearing in those photos.
My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who made it home from the War. Europeans bore the brunt of the casualties with 9 million military men killed and over 30 million wounded. World War I was one of the most tragic events in modern world history, and the “peace” that was reached at its end led directly to the Second World War.
eLibrary has many resources teachers can use to explain this momentous time in world History. A really good high school lesson plan called “Wilson & American Entry into World War I” can be found at EDSITEment!, a National Endowment for the Humanities website. While you and your students are conducting research on this topic, don’t forget to check out ProQuest’s awesome Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War, a digital collection of writings produced near the trenches and on the home front. During this 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I, it might be a good idea to take some time out from your regular class assignments and get your students involved in a discussion on this timely topic. One idea would be to have your class watch the American Experience documentary “The Great War,” which premieres on PBS April 10.
While Woodrow Wilson often gets credit for the phrase “the war to end all wars,” delivered during his April 1917 speech before Congress, many historians assume that he got the idea from a 1914 book by H.G. Wells entitled “The War That Will End War.”
The United States officially declared war on Austria-Hungary on December 7, 1917. Twenty-four years later, on December 7, 1941, FDR asked Congress for a declaration of war against the Empire of Japan, marking America’s entry into World War II.
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The date was March 29, 1886. Pharmacist John Pemberton was hard at work in his laboratory, brewing a concoction intended to cure various ills including headaches, indigestion, and hangovers. Instead, Pemberton created something that would go on to become one of the most popular soft drinks of all time—Coca-Cola.
Here are five facts you may not have known about Coca-Cola:
- The original Coca-Cola formula was made with coca leaf, which is used to make cocaine, and kola nuts, which contained caffeine. In the early 20th century, the coca leaves were removed from the formula, but the caffeine remained.
- In May 1886, the first glass of Coca-Cola was sold for five cents at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta. It was not immediately popular, generating only $50 in sales through the end of the year.
- Pemberton sold his formula to Ada Candler, an Atlanta businessman. Candler promoted Coca-Cola as a “delicious and refreshing” soft drink and its popularity spread.
- In 1899, three Tennessee entrepreneurs purchased exclusive rights to bottle and sell Coca-Cola. Their price? Just $1. They developed the distinctive contoured bottle that is still used today.
- “The Pause That Refreshes” was one of the first advertising slogans used to market Coca-Cola. It appeared in an advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post in 1929. Over time, Coca-Cola’s advertising attempted to connect the brand with fun and good times, whether it was singing “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” or inviting friends to “Share a Coke.”
The Pro/Con of Coca-Cola
Today Coca-Cola is one of the most globally recognized brands, but that does not translate into universally loved. Health organizations have criticized Coca-Cola for containing too much sugar and contributing to rising rates of diabetes and obesity. This has led some cities and states to consider levying a “junk food tax” on sales of Coca-Cola and other soft drinks. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg took it a step further and proposed banning the sales of “super-size” soft drinks at fast food restaurants.
SIRS Issues Researcher has an entire Leading Issue dedicated to Food and Nutrition that can be used to bring the invention of Coca-Cola into your classroom today. Students can read opposing viewpoints and Essential Questions on various issues, including Junk Food Taxes, School Lunches, and Obesity. For historical background, they can also access timelines with key events related to Food and Nutrition.
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The discussion of recent U.S.-Russia relations is a good opportunity to share the history of relations between the two countries with your students. A significant event in this history is the Alaska Purchase which occurred 150 years ago when the relationship between the two countries was perhaps more allied than it is now. Considered a “folly” by some at the time, the acquisition of Alaska added over 586,000 square miles of new land to the growing United States.
Russia had been a player in the Alaskan territory since the mid-1700s. By the mid-1800s, Russia was having financial difficulties after its defeat in the Crimean War, and the territory had become a burden. Russia decided to put the unprofitable and indefensible territory on the market. The United States seemed the only potential buyer. In March 1867, armed with instructions to accept no less than $5 million for Alaska, the Russian minister to America, Edouard de Stoeckl, was surprised when Secretary of State William Seward came in with just that for a first offer. By the time negotiations were over, the U.S. offer was up to $7.2 million. On March 30, 1867, the United States became the proud owner of a seemingly barren land.
Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the deal as William Seward was. He was a proponent of territorial expansion and could see the potential in Alaska’s natural resources that skeptics who referred to the deal as Seward’s Folly or Seward’s Icebox could not. The deal, though, was a good one for the U.S. averaging to less than two cents per acre. It remains the second-largest land deal ever. In 1880, Seward’s vision would be vindicated when gold was discovered paving the way for population growth, new towns, and statehood.
Your students can learn more about the Alaska Purchase and the major players by starting with eLibrary. One excellent resource is the book, The Alaska Purchase. It covers everything from Alaska’s “discovery” by the Russians to its statehood in 1959. Consider this lesson from the Library of Congress for your students to dig deeper into using primary sources.
Fun Fact: While you cannot see Russia from Sarah Palin’s home in Wasilla, you can see it from Little Diomede in the Bering Strait. The island is 2.5 miles from its Russian counterpart Big Diomede. You can also see Russian mainland from the top of St. Lawrence Island about 37 miles away as well as some Siberian mountains from Cape Prince of Wales, the westernmost point of the American mainland.
eLibrary’s editor‐created Research Topics give content, context and pathways beginning users need to start researching U.S.-Russia relations and other topics.
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This is the first in a series of posts on teaching controversial political issues to students.
Political polarization is growing, and schools are not immune. Political divisiveness, which has been simmering in schools for a while now, boiled over during the 2016 presidential election and exposed a major problem: students struggle to talk civilly about controversial political issues. Headlines chronicling this problem are everywhere. Last October, administrators cancelled a mock election at an elementary school because they feared divisive talk. This month, Middlebury College students resorted to violence to block a controversial speaker because his viewpoints differed from their own.
Teachers, facing pressure from parents and school administrators, are now questioning whether they should be teaching controversial political issues, which have long been a part of the curriculum. According to a 2016 Southern Poverty Law Center survey, more than half of K-12 teachers reported an increase in uncivil political talk among their students, and over 40 percent said they were reluctant to teach about the 2016 presidential election.
So, we are left with one question: Should teachers cover controversial political issues in the classroom?
Let’s take the long view and turn to facts grounded in research. Diana E. Hess and Paula McAvoy, co-winners of the 2017 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award, published The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education in 2014. The book presents findings from their landmark four-year study on the teaching of controversial political issues in the classroom, including observations and interviews of high school teachers and their students. Hess and McAvoy found that students want to indeed learn about controversial political issues. They also found that teaching controversial political issues has real benefits for students, even—or especially—in these politically polarized times.
Here are six benefits of teaching controversial political issues to students:
- Engagement. Students participate more, especially when they are encouraged to be a part of class discussions.
- Political Literacy. Students stay more informed about controversial political issues.
- Tolerance. Students respect and understand other viewpoints.
- Confidence. Students grow more confident in holding their own viewpoints and discussing politics in general.
- Civil Discourse. Students learn to engage in civil discourse.
- Political Participation. Students vote more often later in life.
Of course, teaching controversial political issues does not come without risks. Educators face challenging ethical decisions, along with a partisan political climate. Some students may be sensitive about certain issues because they are affected in their own lives. Students need a safe environment and guidance, and teachers need to be clear about their expectations, including what is acceptable and respectful behavior. These concerns cannot be ignored.
But political divisiveness in schools doesn’t mean educators should stop teaching controversial political issues. It means educators should be teaching them more. Debating controversial political issues civilly isn’t innate. It is learned. If students are not taught to engage civilly in political debates, they cannot be expected to do so as adults. Students in Hess and McAvoy’s study demonstrated a remarkable level of maturity and intellectual growth because it was expected of them. If today’s students learn how to deliberate and discuss, they will become adults capable of civil discourse. Imagine that.
Future posts in this controversial political issues series will address other considerations, including the aims of teaching political issues, ethical issues of teaching political issues, and rules to promote civil discourse.
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The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education is available on ProQuest Ebook Central or wherever books are sold.
SIRS Issues Researcher is a pro/con database that helps students understand today’s controversial political issues with editorially selected analysis and opinions that cover the entire spectrum of viewpoints.
Don’t have SIRS Issues Researcher? Free trials are available.
Every school child knows that the Spanish nobleman and explorer Juan Ponce de Léon discovered Florida in the Spring of 1513 while searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. We know this because the state of Florida commemorated the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Léon’s arrival with a year-long celebration called Viva Florida 500 in 2013. Tourists can visit Ponce de Léon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, Ponce de Léon Springs State Park in the northwest panhandle, or various statues of the famed explorer–located in front of St. Augustine’s city hall, in Bayfront Park in Miami, at Juan Ponce de Léon Landing Park near Melbourne Beach, and another in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was the first governor.
His legacy continues today in the towns, cities, and streets all over America that are named for him, but let’s explore some of the myths surrounding Ponce de Léon’s “discovery” of Florida and his search for the “Fountain of Youth.”
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was Born in 1460
* Early historians and scholars believed that he was born in 1460, and many reference books still cite this date. One of the factors that originally supported the legend that Ponce de Léon was seeking a fountain of youth was the mistaken belief that he was a relatively old man (53) at the time of his voyage.
* In 1974, American historian and Harvard professor Samuel Eliot Morison was the first to document that Ponce de Léon was actually born in 1474, making him only 39 years old when he landed in Florida.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Was a Spanish Nobleman
* Ponce de Léon was born in San Tervás del Campo. While the names of his parents aren’t known, it is believed that he was the illegitimate son of a powerful Andalusian nobleman.
* As a young boy, he became the page of a Spanish knight of Calatrava named Pedro Núñez de Guzmán. Even though he was poor and illegitimate, he was educated and received some military training. He participated in military campaigns, including the war to conquer the Kingdom of Granada.
* In 1493, he volunteered to serve on one of the 17 ships that were part of Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the new World.
Myth: Ponce de Léon Discovered Florida
* When he first arrived on Florida’s shores, there were an estimated 100,000 to as many as 350,000 native Americans already living there. Among the known tribes were Timucuans, Apalachee, Pensacola, Tocobaga, Calusa, Tequesta, Jeaga, Jobe, Ais, and others.
* Archeological evidence indicates that their earliest ancestors arrived there some 12,000 years ago. By the end of the 17th century, nearly all of these indigenous peoples were gone–due to a combination of European aggression, enslavement and the introduction of diseases like smallpox, influenza, typhus and measles.
* He was probably not even the first European to visit Florida, though he was the first to land under the authority of the King of Spain, so it was recorded and recognized. He called the land La Florida, the Spanish term for “place of flowers,” or because the Spanish religious festival Pascua Florida (Easter) was occurring at the time.
* The Spanish had already been sending expeditions to the Bahamas for years to capture slaves, and there is evidence that some made it to the east coast of Florida. By 1513, when Ponce de Léon first arrived, so many Europeans had visited Florida that some Indians greeted him in Spanish.
* The English explorers John Cabot and his son Sebastian explored the east coast of North America in 1497-1498—from present-day Canada to possibly even as far as Florida. Others say that Saint Brendan of Ireland may have traveled to Florida’s shores sometime between 512 and 530 AD, or perhaps the Viking explorer Leif Eriksson landed there in 1000 AD.
* As many as six different maps dated from 1500-1511 have been discovered that appear to show the peninsula of Florida.
Myth: He Was Searching for the Fountain of Youth
* Ponce de León received a contract from King Ferdinand of Spain in 1512 to explore and settle an island called Bimini. He was in search of riches in the form of gold and land, as well as a possible governorship for himself.
* “No mention of a Fountain of Youth occurs in any known documents from Ponce’s lifetime, including contracts and other official correspondence with the Crown,” according to University of South Florida historian J. Michael Francis.
* It wasn’t until fourteen years after his death that the Fountain of Youth legend came about. In 1535, Spanish historian and writer Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, who was a political adversary of Ponce de Léon, wrote about the Fountain of Youth in an account of the Spanish presence in the Americas entitled Historia general y natural de las Indias. It’s widely viewed as an attempt to discredit his achievements and make the explorer appear foolish.
* Ponce de Léon most certainly never found the Fountain of Youth. While he and his men were attempting to establish a colony on Florida’s west coast, they were ambushed by a group of Calusa Indians. He was wounded by a poison arrow in the attack and died in Cuba in 1521, at the age of 47.
* The Fountain of Youth Archeological park in St. Augustine is a not the legitimate site of the legendary fountain, but a tourist attraction that first opened in 1904–dreamed up by a woman named Louella Day McConnell. The current park was developed by Walter B. Fraser after he purchased it in 1927. His family still runs the park, which is one of Florida’s oldest continuous tourist attractions, with 100,000 annual visitors.
To find out more about Ponce de Léon, the exploration of Florida, and the Fountain of Youth, direct your students to these ProQuest Research Topic pages available on eLibrary:
ProQuest Guided Research products support information literacy, writing, and research skills instruction by providing educator resources and curriculum-aligned content. Not a ProQuest customer? Free trials are available.
One of the biggest challenges for teachers is helping students overcome the fear of writing the research paper. Students will invariably ask: “What should I write about? How do I get started? Where do I find the information for my subject? It’s due when?!” Not only is it a challenge for students to get started and take the time to research their subject thoroughly, but also be under pressure with a deadline to finish it. It’s up to the teacher to help students navigate these obstacles and be successful with their research papers. ProQuest may be able to help you in this endeavor.
ProQuest’s eLibrary can help you guide your students through the research process from beginning to end with its Research Topic on Writing a Research Paper. There is a section on the elements and processes of writing with articles on critical thinking skills, note-taking, evaluating sources, and revising and editing their papers, along with other helpful articles.
One aspect of writing a research paper is using and citing reliable information sources. In the past several months fake news has become a topic of interest in national politics, but it can be a great teaching tool as part of your research instruction by showing students the difference of what is and is not reliable information. eLibrary also has a Research Topic on Fake News, with articles about the characteristics of fake news, evaluating sources, and how to recognize fake news when it is presented.
Another source for helping you guide your students through the research process is the ProQuest Research Companion, a self-guided tool that assists them in doing more effective research and helps you teach the fundamentals of finding and evaluating useful, reliable information. Research Companion can help your students wade through what is often an overwhelming amount of information by guiding their research effort. It is comprised of ten Learning Modules and five interactive tools arranged to automate the stages of the research process.
Research can be hard for for first-time researchers, and even seasoned students can find it difficult wading through the process of gathering information, drafting, revising, editing, and finalizing their research papers. But maybe it can be less painful with a little help from ProQuest.
Debating Job Automation
What does the future of work look like? As technology increases, it has become evident that our world is changing. Robots are being used in place of workers in factories, service industries, the military, the medical field, and more. Is there a way for robots and humans to work alongside each other in harmony? The debate continues. Some say the automation of jobs will lead to the creation of better job opportunities. Others say automation is just the start of a worldwide unemployment crisis. Should the government provide a basic income if robots replace workers? These are just some of the pro/con viewpoints students can debate and analyze with SIRS Issues Researcher’s Leading Issues.
Our new Job Automation Leading Issue highlights the key points surrounding the automation of work and the industries impacted, offers pro/con arguments, a timeline of events, critical thinking questions, helpful websites, and editorially-selected articles and media to kick-start students’ research.
Resources in our Job Automation Leading Issue include:
- Public Predictions for the Future of Workforce Automation: This Pew Research Center report outlines the future of automation and work.
- 2025 AD The Year of Automated Driving: An interactive timeline depicting key events regarding autonomous vehicles.
- Humans vs. Robots: This National Public Radio podcast explores how humans and robots will coexist in the future.
- Timeline of Computer History: A computer history timeline that touches on automation, robots and artificial intelligence.
Want to know more about Leading Issues? Contact us for complete access to SIRS Issues Researcher today!
Is your classroom studying the future of automation? Let us know in the comments below or Tweet us at #ProQuest.
SIRS Issues Researcher’s new Leading Issue: Private Space Sector is out of this world!
The future of space travel is taking off with private companies. This action-packed Leading Issue will help students explore how the private sector is launching reusable rockets, hauling cargo to the International Space Station, and providing useful services to NASA. The private sector also wants to make space tourism happen by 2020.
Students don’t have to wait until college and career to gain experience with space science! Besides delving into the Private Space Sector Leading Issue, students can also learn about the space industry through hands-on experience. Explore the links below for opportunities for students to gain knowledge and experience with NASA and private sector programs.
- Aerospace Activities and Lessons from the Glenn Research Center allows students to gain experience in school with projects and activities created by educators and NASA engineers. Each activity includes resources for students and objectives for teachers.
- NASA Education’s page includes a wealth of knowledge for students and teachers through STEM education. Guidance for education includes an A-Z list of projects, design challenges, and opportunities for students to interact with NASA.
- Current Opportunities for Students is also included in the NASA Education website. This page provides webcasts, contests, and lectures. It also lists scholarship and intern possibilities.
- United Launch Alliance provides cost-effective launch services for NASA. They also provide an educational page on their website dedicated to students with rocket terminology and fun facts. Students can register to compete for a CubeSat satellite launch or look into the Intern Rocket Program.
- Student Launch is a competitive rocket launching competition designed for students to learn the importance of teamwork while building a cost-effective reusable rocket. This NASA-conducted engineering design challenge provides resources and experiences for students and teachers.
- SystemsGo is a NASA-endorsed program that helps students design rockets using STEM and teamwork. The site offers everything from educational video resources, launch events, and even how to start an aerospace program at school.
Private Sector Programs:
- SpaceX‘s FIRST program awards students with scholarships as well as a chance for 10-15 high school seniors to become interns. Other programs include building and battling robotics for older students and a LEGO robot challenge for kids ages 9-14.
- Virgin Galactic offers a Global Scholarship and Mentoring Program for students interested in STEM education.
- Blue Origin offers an Astronaut Experience. Sign up for an experience on the New Shepard space vehicle.
How are your students exploring space science? Drop us a line in the comments section below or Tweet us at #ProQuest!
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