In Greek Mythology, Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of the Moon. Accordingly, her name serves as the title for NASA’s program aimed on a return to the lunar surface by the year 2024 and ultimately, missions to Mars. Last week, the first class of 13 astronauts for the Artemis generation graduated. It is expected that the Artemis astronauts will one day step foot where no human has ever been before – on the Moon’s South Pole.
Coincidentally during this same week, the 13 members of the Class of 2020 presented a project in their English Language Arts based on principles for Universal Design Learning. UDL is a concept where the design and composition of an environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) is created in a way that will meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. Mrs. Heather Shea, our 5th – 8th grade ELA teacher, asked our 8th grade students to complete a written planning document for their project, as well as include a 3-D model of their formed design. In addition, the students created a Google Slides presentation which states the problem; the solution; why this design project is important; how it works; and who it will benefit. Teams of 8th grade students collaborated together using UDL principles to arrive at the following project ideas: an Artificial Intelligence Robot to perform various household tasks; Rain Deflector headgear; a Stop, Slow and Go Traffic Light for colorblind drivers; and Windshield Wiping Glasses.
As I conducted a bit of research on the 13 NASA astronauts in the Artemis program, I was struck by their impressive background – as both individuals and as a collective group. Their degrees include the following: biology, marine sciences, systems engineering, nuclear engineering, mathematics, medicine, information technology, engineering science, electrical engineering, systems engineering, aerospace engineering, flight test engineering, international relations, geological and environmental sciences, mechanical engineering, flight test engineering, aeronautics and astronautics.
When I think of this remarkable group of individuals, I begin to think of the type of student and leader they may have been as 8th grade students? Furthermore, I also wonder if they were inspired in school by their own Universal Design Learning project. And looking at our own 8th grade leaders, I know that the Class of 2020 has many shining moments awaiting them in their future. And what’s more, I am convinced that the experiences they are gaining at St. Agnes School have begun to lay a foundation for a promising outlook ahead. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a future NASA astronaut or New York Times journalist or research physician at Johns Hopkins will have spent their childhood days in BEAR NATION.