STEM & Career Prep
Middle School Challenge Encourages Career Exploration
- By Dian Schaffhauser
encourage middle-schoolers to explore future careers, a national
nonprofit is running a competition in which student participants
tackle big problems. The challenge is being run by American
Student Assistance (ASA), which works on helping
students understand college and career pathways, in partnership with
for Middle Level Education (AMLE).
Tomorrow's Leaders Tackling Today's Challenges"
invites students to adopt a career for the purpose of creating a
solution in one of four broad areas:
solution to a public health issue;
colony on Mars; or
the inaugural competition, which was introduced in 2020, a team of
five seventh-graders known as the "Galactic Girls," from
Academy in Massachusetts, with the help of guidance
counselor John MacDonald, took on roles as scientists, to develop
blueprints and models for hydroponic farms to sustain a colony on
Mars. According to MacDonald, they performed extensive research,
visited the Boston Science Museum and interviewed a former director
of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
knew taking on the role as scientists and botanists would be
challenging with Mars' limited water supply, so we had to develop a
creative solution through a lot of brainstorming, collaboration,
teamwork, as well as insights gained from the interview that we
conducted with the NASA scientist," noted MacDonald, in a
statement earlier this year, after his school was named the top
felt empowered. We felt confident. We felt excited that our knowledge
of science could do so much for NASA -- and so much for our future,"
the team said.
the latest competition, teachers can enroll whole classes, create
teams of up to five students each and choose the challenges for the
teams to complete. Or students can self-register as teams, with adult
support. During the challenge, the teams work through various phases
(discovery, exploration, imagination, creation and reflection),
during which they learn more about different careers and develop
their collaborative problem-solving skills. Once the team has
finished the challenge, they submit a deliverable to showcase their
work, such as an infographic, a presentation, podcast or video.
Challenges will be judged based on creativity, career skills
engagement and knowledge development.
teams get $1,500 for first place, $1,000 for second place and $500
for third place. For teacher-run programs, the school is also
eligible to win $10,000, $5,000 or $2,500.
is required, and submissions will be accepted from January 3 through
March 4, 2022 via Solvably,
a digital learning platform operated by MassiveU.
Winners will be announced in April.
young people do not have equitable access to the information they
need to make an informed post-secondary education and career plan,"
said ASA Vice President of Strategy & Innovation, Alisa Wilke, in
a statement. "ASA 'Solve Together' gives learners agency by
encouraging them to explore issues they care about, discover their
interests and skills, explore education and career pathways, and turn
passions into plans. This is also a powerful way to re-engage
pandemic era disconnected learners by encouraging them to refocus on
the futures and possibilities."
know that middle school is an ideal time for students to explore and
learn about themselves and the world around them, and that students
benefit when curriculum is organized around significant problems and
issues in society," added Stephanie Simpson, CEO of AMLE. "This
meets both of those aims, offering students the opportunity to tackle
real-world problems through the lens of potential future careers. We
can't wait to see what our amazingly creative middle grades students
come up with this year!"
the ASA Solve Together website.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.