As a long-time educator, I am constantly aware of the importance and the responsibility I have in making sure the doors of opportunity are wide open for students, regardless of their educational situations or circumstances. But to get their attention, we have to pique their curiosity and engage their spirit.
Students arrive in our classrooms with so much individuality, wide-ranging different backgrounds and experiences, but somehow great teachers present their course content in what seems like magical ways to pique interest, stretch imaginations and challenge students to learn more.
This is actually exactly what the fine folks at NASA have been doing for many years through the Mars rovers.
On January 4, 2004, the rover Spirit landed on Mars and worked diligently for us for more than six years to cover 4.8 miles of the Mars surface before getting its wheels trapped in the planet’s sand. Even then, it adjusted itself to act as a stationary science platform to help us know more about the planet. NASA stated that Spirit completed its planned 90-sol (day) mission and actually functioned effectively over twenty times longer than expected!
The next rover to land on Mars was Spirit’s twin, Opportunity. Landing three weeks later on January 25, 2004, Opportunity ran around the planet, covering more than 25 miles, close to a marathon. It is still operational and mobile, celebrating its twelfth birthday today—a pre-teenager!
Curiosity went to Mars on Aug. 6, 2012, and continues to operate today. It withstands slightly extreme weather environments that we are not used to, built to work in between -197 degrees Fahrenheit through 104 degrees—and it has no coat, gloves or hat!
Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity are more than land rovers on Mars—they are definitions of the characteristics that we want to plant in students every day. We want students to:
- Grow their spirit and enthusiasm and be life-long learners.
- Engage with zeal in the moment of discovery as they unwrap.
- Adjust to situations with positivity and a good attitude.
- Work hard and delight in their success.
Teachers and parents play a critical role in building the learning spirit that lives within each of us, and when observed we must recognize its priceless value.