Explorer At Large and a team of leading education specialists, storytellers, and space organizations have been selected for a highly competitive grant from NASA to inspire future explorers. The proposal was one of only seven NASA selected (out of ninety-five submissions) under NASA’s Teams Engaging Affiliated Museums and Informal Institutions (TEAM II) Remote Opportunity Rapid Response (RORR) initiative.
The collective initiative is called Project Ianos. Its mission is to spark curiosity among primary school students using the inspirational stories of human space exploration. The Project Ianos team consists of the Aldrin Family Foundation, Explorer At Large, Public Consulting Group, and the University of Kansas.
"Everyone on the Project Ianos team is so honored to have been selected for this opportunity," said Josh Bernstein, CEO of Explorer At Large (XAL). "To date, all of Explorer At Large’s Instructional Units have been based on video content we produced with funding from the Smithsonian Institution and Department of Education. We couldn’t be more excited to produce immersive, hands-on content featuring the experts, facilities, and legacy of NASA."
Working under cooperative agreements Project Ianos has in place with three NASA Centers (Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, and Glenn Research Center), the team is now preparing to develop and deploy compelling short videos, engaging activities, and hands-on learning tools targeted to 3.8 million underrepresented students in grades 5-8. Project Ianos videos and educational resources will be available free and fully downloadable through a network of 75,000 US Public schools and via the Internet.
The Project Ianos concept received initial, exploratory funding from the Harold C. Schott Foundation, a Cleveland, Ohio-based not-for-profit that has funded Explorer At Large since its first pilot program in 2017 along with the Bezos Family Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, and Battelle Memorial Institute.
"We were pleased to offer initial support of Project Ianos and are grateful that NASA recognizes the tremendous impact this specific program can have on students," said Michael Schott, a trustee of the Harold C. Schott Foundation. "The two pilot programs Explorer At Large has completed in Ohio schools have proven that the XAL model works. Scaling the model nationwide with a focus on NASA content is the perfect next step in Explorer At Large’s growth."
As participants in Project Ianos, students will take an immersive journey into the past, present, and future of human space exploration through videos produced and hosted by world-renowned explorer and award-winning television presenter Josh Bernstein. Archival footage from historic NASA programs like Apollo will be blended with current-day interviews featuring subject-matter experts (SMEs) from NASA and other space industry leaders. Project Ianos content will introduce students to the dreams, aspirations, and challenges facing those on the frontlines of NASA’s mission to return to the Moon.
"These next five years will be very exciting as NASA and specifically its Artemis program take humans back to the lunar surface," said Bernstein. "Project Ianos plans to capture the boldness and ingenuity of that effort and bring the associated expertise and enthusiasm into the classroom."
After viewing Project Ianos video content, students will engage in hands-on learning activities tied directly to the videos, inviting students to become explorers themselves. These "missions," designed to pique curiosity, will be aligned with national education standards and be adaptable to both individual and group learning situations. The goal: to ignite passions while laying the foundation for a strong and diverse future STEM workforce, connecting classrooms to potential career paths in human spaceflight.
Project Ianos plans to have its first Instructional Units available to students in late spring 2021. For more information, please visit www.projectianos.org
About Project Ianos
Project Ianos is a collaboration among leading education specialists, space organizations and communications experts dedicated to strengthening student understanding of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Through professional videos and hands-on activities aligned with education standards, students take an inspirational journey into the past, present, and future of human space exploration and become explorers themselves. Led by the Aldrin Family Foundation (AFF), other Project Ianos partners include Explorer At Large (XAL), Public Consulting Group (PCG), and the University of Kansas (KU). Through the team’s network of 75,000 US Public Schools, a projected 3.8 million students will benefit from Project Ianos’ content. Outreach programs will specifically target 5th-8th grade students in underserved and underrepresented communities.
About Explorer At Large (XAL)
The mission of Explorer At Large (XAL) is to create generations of curious and courageous explorers. XAL accomplishes its mission through an integrated ecosystem of engaging videos, hands-on activities, field trips, and family- and community-oriented experiences that foster an explorer’s mindset and skillset. More information can be found at www.exploreratlarge.com.
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