Inspiring teens in the face of global upheaval

Actura / 28 August 2020

Educating, engaging and entertaining students in STEM can be challenging when opportunities for real world, face-to-face inspiration are restricted. While our international study expeditions and renowned Space School programmes are on hold, Actura remains committed to providing students with authentic STEM experiences.

Since COVID-19 reached Australia and New Zealand early this year, we’ve been diversifying, setting up the CASE VIP Insight Speaker series to ensure students can continue to be inspired by our space education, so together with their families they can rely on our support as educators in personal development.

Jonathan Catherman, Personal Development Ambassador to CASE (California Association for STEAM Education), renowned sociologist and international best-selling author, offered his support in a series of webinars exclusively for CASE families. Through the CASE VIP Insight Speaker Series, Jonathan gave families the unique and highly beneficial opportunity to join three private sessions focusing on coping with isolation and the pressures of COVID-19.

As a sociologist, Jonathan studies the lives and culture of teenagers. He speaks around the world about the principles and strengths that empower greatness in children, teens, and young adults. He is the author of several best-selling books, including Guiding The Next Great Generation and Becoming The Next Great Generation both #1 new releases in the United States in March.

Recognising the unique messaging required for different family members, Jonathan’s three sessions were targeted specifically to each generation. The teen session ‘Finding strength and purpose through the challenges of COVID-19’ helped students recognise the importance of maintaining cross-generational family relationships even while exercising independence. The next day, their parents joined a session to ‘Help yourself and support your children to become more resilient’. The final webinar brought all the concepts together with Jonathan presenting to the whole family about ‘Co-operating to find strength and balance’.

Parents and teens all benefitted from a discussion about how technology — the main force behind the widening of the gap between Generations X and Z —ironically can be used as a tool to create a bridge between them. Jonathan’s judicious advice about balancing the need for private space with making sure parents and teens stay connected all while coping with isolation was pitched perfectly for the family session. There were many knowing smiles, nods and chuckles in response to Jonathan’s humorous style.

Working closely with CASE, Jonathan advises in the development of CASE’s ‘mPOWER’ learning module for junior and senior students. This module is a fundamental component of CASE International Study Programs, designed to teach students practical skills they can implement in their journey towards becoming confident and capable adults. On expedition Jonathan is a favourite presenter among students who relate to his funny family anecdotes and real-life examples.

Jonathan will present another series of three webinar sessions to more CASE families this October. As the impact of the worldwide pandemic continues to cause uncertainty, his messages and tools to help create strength and unity in families are more powerful than ever.

Following the success of our Personal Development webinars, the CASE VIP Insight Speaker Series features NASA professionals from the CASE Expert Speaker Panel. In small group webinars, each expert provides their professional insight into the latest NASA programs, highly topical missions and the work that goes on behind the scenes. Families are introduced to some of the speakers students will meet at CASE Space School, and students see a glimpse of the many career possibilities at NASA and throughout the space industry.

Andrew Rechenberg — IT Liaison and Communications Expert at NASA’s Johnson Space Center — spoke about NASA’s Lunar Gateway Program. Drawing on his diverse experience at NASA, Andy spoke about working remotely – something we are now all very familiar with. Yet Andy’s version of working remotely is a little different to most, as he works from Earth on a project taking place in space!

Students took the opportunity to interrogate Andy’s extensive knowledge about the program that will place a space station in Lunar orbit to provide a launchpad for future robotic and human missions to the Moon and Mars.

In June, CASE students and families met NASA’s Kristi Duplichen in two webinars that she presented about the International Space Station (ISS).

Kristi is the Safety Manager for the ISS and a Chairperson on NASA’s Safety Panel. She provided a highly relevant connection between safety protocols necessary for life in remote isolation on the ISS and the safety and other issues surrounding life in isolation in our homes on Earth.

Students and parents were intrigued by astronauts’ daily life on the ISS and Kristi was happy to answer questions about managing waste on the ISS and dealing with astronaut illness on board. The political significance of the various international collaborations that make the ISS possible was not lost on students. One student asked how the relationship between the United States and Russia has grown as a result of creating the ISS together and in spite of previous political tension.

In our third NASA webinar, one of CASE’s most popular NASA speakers, Elizabeth Blome, resonated with Alliance of Girls’ Schools students as a woman working in a highly sought-after STEM role at NASA.

With a NASA career spanning over 20 years, Elizabeth has worked as a Shuttle Flight Controller in Mission Control, a Space Station Instructor teaching astronauts and flight controllers, and an Extravehicular Activity Flight Increment Manager responsible for coordinating and managing space walks from the ISS.

Currently Boeing Verification and Validation Lead on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, Elizabeth spoke about the recent Commercial Crew Launch – a partnership between NASA and SpaceX.

In response to several student questions about opportunities to work on the Commercial Crew Program, Elizabeth was keen to advise that the massive growth of this program to support future space exploration is creating thousands of roles around the world both at international space agencies and global commercial partner organisations.

When asked by a young Alliance student about her experience as a woman in the space industry, Elizabeth was pleased to explain that as a highly innovative industry, space is not only exciting but generally at the forefront of inclusive practices.

Elizabeth’s message to young women is that they can do anything they set their minds to.

As part of Actura’s ongoing mission to engage, educate and entertain students our offerings will evolve as needs change. The CASE VIP Insight Speaker Series will continue throughout 2020, including speakers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab on Monday 5th and Saturday 10th October, and Johnson Space Center and another Personal Development series. Our diversification continues with the evolution of our existing programs and new developments including FlipRobot Academy, CASE Space Academy and CASE Ocean School.

To ensure you receive invitations to our future webinars and program updates, sign up for our fortnightly newsletters. Contact [email protected]