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Space Education by JAXA - Fostering Young Hearts and Minds - Space Education Enriches Children's Heart Hideo Nakamura Director, JAXA Space Education Center

Space Attracts Children so much

Q. What is the mission of the Space Education Center?

Children making water rockets
Children making water rockets

The JAXA Space Education Center was established to contribute to character formation in children by using the knowledge and technology that have been accumulated through the space program.
There are a lot to learn from space and about space. The mysteries of space develop a feeling of curiosity, stimulate our interest, and space exploration awakens our spirit of adventure. We believe that the same things happen to children as well. Our goal is to use the space program for children to cultivate desire for learning - so that they will be passionate not only about science, but also about many other subjects, such as social studies, the Japanese language and art.

Q. Please tell us about the activities of the Space Education Center.

APRSAF-16 Water Rocket Event, held in Thailand
APRSAF-16 Water Rocket Event, held in Thailand

The main activities are supporting school education and social education.
About supporting school education, we collaborate closely with teachers to produce and promote educational materials about space.
About social education, JAXA runs original classes for elementary school students, middle school students, and high-school students. Also, Space Education Center trains and supports leaders who promote space education.
Another activity is international collaboration in space education. We have attend an international conference about space education and introduced the educational materials about space. Also, we have sent several Japanese students to an international water rocket competition.
In future, we would like to bring the excitement of space education to children around the world, especially those in developing countries.

Support for School Education and Informal Education

Q. What is the center actually doing for supporting school education?

Making original space food at Space Kitchen Kagoshima
Making original space food at Space Kitchen Kagoshima

We develop teaching materials with teachers of elementary school, middle school and high-school. The key to successful classis to grab children's hearts in the first five to ten minutes. It is said that if you can grab children's heart during the introduction, your entire class will go very efficiently and effectively. So we collaborate with teachers to develop effective introduction materials on space topics, in order to help them delivering effective lessons.
By now, we have developed many materials those can be used for introduction materials of various topics not only in science but also in Japanese language classes, social studies, home economics, and art e.t.c.. And these materials have been provided to schools across the nation.
For example, for social studies class, we created introduction materials using photos of the Earth's environment, taken by the Advanced Land Observing Satellite Daichi, and made children think about global warming.
Also, in home economics classes, we let teachers use photos of space outfits, space food. One of teachers even made students make space food with locally grown produce. Such an example convinces us of the great possibilities of space education.
The center also assists local school boards with training seminars on space education for teachers across the country. Also, we work with science museums by advising about their exhibitions, providing photos of space, and dispatching scientists to give lectures there. There are many scientists, engineers and professionals for teaching in JAXA. We support them by using our rich human resources.
There are programs named Super Science High School (SSH) and Science Partnership Project (SPP), those are implemented by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in order to cultivate students who specialize in science, technology and mathematics. We help teachers in these programs for their lesson planning, content, and curriculum.
Also, depends on the needs of each school, the center provides support in various ways like sending experts in JAXA to their classrooms or coordinating their visiting some science facilities.

Q. Could you explain how do you support social education?

Wind tunnel experiment at Comic College in Sagamihara
Wind tunnel experiment at Comic College in Sagamihara

We have a hands-on program for students from elementary school to high school, called Cosmic College. In Cosmic College, we have age-based classes. In these classes, students learn the way of scientific thinking and scientific perspective through observation, experiments and creating things.
In future, we would like local communities to run Cosmic College, so right now, we co-host Cosmic College with some private sectors and some social education organizations.
For instance, the members of the Young Astronauts Club across Japan cooperate us as practitioners and instructors of space education, and the Discovery Channel, which specializes in documentary programs, is also our co-host.
Also, with the non-profit organization KU-MA [Kodomo Uchu Mirai Association, which means "Children, Space, Future Association"], we run Space School, mainly for children up to the second grade and their parents. In Space School, several sessions are held based on a yearly curriculum, and participants study at home between the sessions by using materials we provide. The key feature of the Space School is home study, and the learning materials are designed for parent and child to work together.
Other than that, we run training seminars across Japan for people who can lead space education activities such as Cosmic College. Participants are those who have little experience in space education, and those who want to enhance their skills as teachers of space education. They learn various essential skills, like how to use teaching materials, how to communicate with children, and safety management in their class.
It is very important for us to train leaders in order to expand space education across the country.

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