On Tuesday night, the Board of Education named our elementary STEM school Neil Armstrong Academy. I’m quite excited about the choice, and I think Neil Armstrong and those who were involved with the Apollo missions powerfully exemplify STEM or inquiry-based learning. Again and again they tackled authentic problems with no answer key to turn to. They were forced to be very patient with irresolution and to struggle long with how to put a man on the moon. They drew upon multiple fields in an integrated fashion, engaged in repeated experimentation, and ultimately pulled it off.
I love this picture of Neil Armstrong. It’s actually one of the very few taken of him on the surface of the moon. This, of course, was taken after the moon walk and once he had re-entered the lunar module. The smile on his face and the tears in his eyes demonstrate to me the great satisfaction that comes from achieving a goal after a long struggle and how the struggle can change and improve you. In the case of Neil Armstrong, that change was perhaps not just for him, but also for all those who tackled the challenge along with him.
I expect our students at the STEM school to experience authentic and concrete learning as they apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate their knowledge in ways they’ve never done before. And, I expect they’ll experience a level of satisfaction in their learning and growth that they could in no other way.