K12 Education for Space Settlement: An Ideas Unlimited Study – Part Two –

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**Continued From Part One**

This qualitative study followed a grounded theory approach using the Ideas Unlimited
method to engage a panel of experts and make their tacit knowledge explicit for real-world
implementation, and for further research. The researcher operated from a social constructivist
paradigm, a common foundation for education research which rests on the belief that the human
mind is constantly engaged in developing subjective meanings from the environment in which it
lives, and that meaning-making is a process of social negotiation via dialogs or conversations
between individuals (Creswell, 2003; Jonassen et al., 2003).


School design is a complex long term undertaking faced with many human elements that
limit the effectiveness of quantitative analysis, making a qualitative approach more appropriate,
especially when concerning an emerging future context such as space settlement. Trochim
(2001) defined qualitative research as a process involving any measures where the data are not
recorded in numerical form, and he included short written responses on surveys among his
examples of qualitative data. These measures are especially appropriate in a social
constructivist context because qualitative researchers are interested in the meaning that people
construct and how they make sense of the world and their experiences in it (Merriam, 1998).
The role of the researcher in qualitative research is thus to gather, analyze, and interpret data –
a process that requires careful observation, tolerance for ambiguity, confidence in intuition, and
clarity in communication (Creswell, 2003; Merriam, 1998).
Because no K12 schools exist that focus on preparing students for humanity’s
multi-planet future, a grounded theory approach is an effective choice for generating new ideas.
According to Leedy and Ormrod (2005), “the major purpose of a grounded theory approach is to
begin with the data and use them to develop a theory” (p. 140). In this case, the study works
from the expert opinions of the participants to then derive an abstract theory meant to guide
policy makers (Creswell, 2003).
In particular, the Ideas Unlimited method is well proven for planning purposes, improving
performance, and generating new ideas. According to Downing et al (2016), “Ideas Unlimited
collects and organizes ideas from people to solve strategy, policy, planning, program, process,
task, or procedural problems” (p. 30). Traditionally, ideas are collected on small slips of paper,
thus the original name of C.C. Crawford’s “Crawford Slip Method” before Dr. Bob Krone coined
the name “Ideas Unlimited” (Krone & Gregory-Krone, 2018). For this 2020 study, an online
Google Form was used to asynchronously collect submissions from geographically dispersed
participants into a collaborative web-based Google Spreadsheet shared between the researcher
and his academic advisors. Participants responded to a single prompt, known as a “target” in


the Ideas Unlimited method, that was designed to focus their mind on their relevant experience
(Krone & Gregory-Krone, 2018). Their responses were then copied from the spreadsheet into
the Zotero qualitative research software for a process of tagging, keyword classification, and
data reduction, with a focus on making recommendations for performance improvements
(Downing et al., 2016). An outline of the results was created using the online outliner Workflowy,
and this paper is the final outcome of the study. The researcher was personally responsible for
all aspects of implementing the Ideas Unlimited process. He composed the target (and
associated instructions, though these were adapted from a target sheet created by Dr. Bob
Krone at Kepler Space Institute), recruited all participants, analyzed all data, and interpreted all
Fifteen participants were included in the study, each an expert in either space
philosophy, education, or both. All participants are credited as co-authors of this paper. Their
names, titles, and professional affiliations also appear in Appendix A. The following is the target
each of them responded to:

Future space exploration and settlement: How might K12 schools best prepare students
for success in humanity’s multi-planet future?


Several themes emerged from the analysis of participant responses to this target prompt. In
general, there was consensus around what might be considered constructivist ideals: a focus on a
learning experience that is engaging, context-embedded, inquiry driven, collaborative, and
supportive of metacognition. As such, mentorship (as opposed to teaching) was a focus of the
responses, as was problem solving (as opposed to rote learning and recall). Not surprisingly, the


importance of technical skills came up often, but so did a variety of “softer” skills including art,
philosophy, and leadership. Finally, there was a consistency in participants’ vision for a better future –
a world inspired by utopian science fiction, characterized by equity, abundance, and humanist or
post-humanist perspectives.
A constructivist learning environment can be said to be engaging, context
embedded, inquiry driven, collaborative, and supportive of metacognition (Wagner, 2008).
Participant responses tended to include many of these elements. For example, space
educator Holly Melear argued that traditional approaches such as hand-outs, memorization,
and testing would not be effective in preparing youth for success in off-world communities;
instead she advocated for students to be working in cross-curricular multi-age teams
focused on solving real-world problems. Janet Ivey, host of Janet’s Planet, suggested
similarly authentic experiences, including activities such as planning Martian settlements,
creating model robotic arms, or designing “astro socks” to protect astronauts’ feet as they
hook onto footholds in zero gravity. Rod Pyle, Author of Space 2.0 also recommended
engaging projects, field trips to space facilities, and connecting with scientists, engineers,
and other space-industry professionals. Additional participants suggested students
complete context-embedded hands-on projects while learning about existing space policies,
such as the Outer Space Treaty, and conducting interviews with professional astronauts. An
inquiry process driven by student agency (including giving students “more practice in
exercising power”) was also a hallmark of many responses. A call for collaborative elements
included cooperation, respect, and appreciation of unique contributions – and also included
a more inclusive reduction in elitist attitudes. Rosalyn Freeman, herself a student, also
promoted the idea that students should rely on each other as they perform tasks similar to
those of a multi-planet society. Reflection and metacognition appeared in several


responses, with a focus on student analysis of learning outcomes, both in authentic
research as a part of completing projects and in the context of more formal academic
writing. In keeping with these constructivist methodologies, direct instruction was
de-emphasized in favor of more meaningful mentorship from people who work in the space
industry (such as experts at NASA, JPL, and elsewhere).
Realistic problem solving was a near universal recommendation of the participants.
There were explicit calls for Project Based Learning (from Melear, Ivey, and others)
including many suggestions of specific space-themed hands-on challenges. These projects
were typically open ended with an expectation of multiple (and multi-disciplinary) paths to
success. A Design Thinking approach was common, in which students would come to
understand a problem (and the people it affects), ideate possible solutions, build prototypes,
test their theories, and iterate on their creations to improve outcomes. For example,
Assistant Principal Scott Thomas suggested teaching students engineering skills in the
context of designing space habitats. Others embedded such challenges into a game or
game-like format.
Activities involving technical skills were common recommendations, with a broad
emphasis on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) skills, many of which were
focused on the challenges of survival in outer space or in the hostile environments of other
planets. Andrew Dobbie, a Grade 6 teacher, suggested that students be tasked with
developing Arduino or Raspberry Pi controlled systems for meeting survival needs, such as
lighting for plants, air filtration, or waste recycling. Other suggestions for STEM projects
included environmental studies, resource stewardship, and challenges related to
governance or interpersonal dynamics. Naturally, there were explicit calls for a wide variety
of science education as well, including other coding projects, such as games or simulations,


and maker projects, such as 3D printing or model building from household materials (Ivey
mentioned a paper mache space suit helmet). Learning experiences were also expected to
include cutting edge technologies; some, including Freeman, wanted students to learn using
augmented or virtual reality headsets and gloves.
Responses focused on technical skills were balanced by similarly numerous
discussions of softer skills, including art, creativity, social emotional learning, personal
growth, philosophical thinking, spirituality, and leadership development. The importance of
art was a common concern, with Malear stressing the importance of the arts for design,
beauty, and stress relief, and Ivey advocating a wide variety of projects including
songwriting, dances, and travel brochures or various visual media as mock marketing
materials. Others focused on the creativity in students’ finding their own paths to success.
There were also explicit calls for the development of interpersonal skills and
social-emotional learning for personal growth… even approaches like practicing mental
health, compassion (and self-compassion), social restoration, collaborative meditation,
development of spiritual relationships, and intentional culture building. Some correlated this
sort of personal growth to developing familiarity with classical philosophy – and with
optimistic Stoic resilience in particular. Naturally, several participants also pointed out the
importance of helping students develop their leadership skills, which can be accomplished
by allowing students opportunities to lead their peers while engaging in the sorts of projects
and problem solving suggested above.
Participants tended to espouse an optimistic vision for the future, inspired in part by
science fiction, but also their hopes for an inclusive global society with a sense of
abundance for all, and with the commitment to duties, policies, and progressive
administrations required to make that a reality. Some responses suggested establishing an


environment of optimistic thinking for students, encouraging them to believe in themselves
and pursue their dreams. Ivey included the practice of calling students by aspirational titles
such as “Astronaut Aiden.” These recommendations are explicitly meant to be inclusive and
equitable for a diversity of students around the world, with an acknowledgement of the
interpersonal, cultural, and ethical challenges involved in this “international investment.”
There were also concerns about overpopulation on Earth, but a generally optimistic belief in
humanity’s ability to settle other habitats throughout the solar system, and in the validity of
both the Overview Effect and the Law of Space Abundance (which suggests that space has
abundant resources to meet human needs). Respondents advocated helping students
develop a sense of duty and ownership over the solutions to such systemic problems. This
included introducing students to issues of governance, including the policy sciences, and
also working directly with current political administrations so students can gain experience
in dealing authentically with similar issues today. In keeping with these philosophies, several
participants recommended that educators provide opportunities for students to study
science fiction as inspiration; for example, Dahn expected instructors to select appropriate
books and films for their students, and Pyle suggested a focus on the overlap between real
science technology and science fiction. In addition, some explicitly recommended exposing
students to the Journal of Space Philosophy published by Kepler Space Institute.

It is clear from the literature review that the benefits of space exploration are many, and that
humanity cannot take advantage of them without proper planning and collaboration on a global
scale. Spinoff technologies and serendipitous scientific discoveries that benefit the general populace
are only the beginning. More significant benefits include: the perspective shifting Overview Effect;


the technology to monitor and deal with climate change; the opportunity to practice diversity, equity,
and inclusion on a global (and interplanetary) scale; and the inspiration of new generations of
scientists, explorers, and pioneers. As the costs of space exploration come down and the
understanding of the dangers improves, some critical benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Space
exploration may help humanity avoid existential risks, making it possible to achieve our highest
aspirations as a species – and to move ethically into a post-human future of essentially unlimited
Given this evident moral mandate to prepare students for humanity’s multi-planet future, the
results of this new Ideas Unlimited study suggest a clear plan of action for educators and education
policy makers. It is critical that a constructivist approach to active learning be adopted, with a focus
on creating learning experiences that are engaging, context-embedded, inquiry driven, collaborative,
and supportive of reflection and metacognition. Methods should focus on mentorship (as opposed to
didactic teaching) and on authentic real-world problem solving (as opposed to rote learning and
recall). Technical skills should certainly be emphasised (including coding, making, and the practice of
the scientific method), but so should a variety of soft skills including creativity, social emotional
learning, and leadership development. Finally, educators should uphold an optimistic worldview,
inspired by the best of science fiction, and characterized by equity, abundance, and a post-humanist
vision for humanity’s future in the solar system and beyond.


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Appendix A: Participant Names, Titles, and Affiliations

Name / Title / Affiliation

Brendan Brennan / Co-Founder / ARES Learning
Joshua Dahn / Executive Director / Astra Nova School
Athena Brensberger / Science Communicator / Astroathens
Andrew Dobbie* / Grade 6 Teacher / SDG Global Ambassador
Rosalyn Freeman* / Student / MPH
Janet Ivey* / CEO / Janet’s Planet, Inc.
Bob Krone, Ph.D. / President / Kepler Space Institute
Holly Melear* / CEO & Founder / STEAMSPACE Education Outreach
Rod Pyle* / Writer and Editor / National Space Society
Steve Sherman / Chief Imagination Officer / Living Maths
Rhonda Stevenson / President & CEO / Tau Zero Foundation
Scott Thomas* / Assistant Principal / Stuyvesant High School
Barbara Hopkinson Wagner / Social Awareness Educator / Kids Are the Solution Project
Artemis Westenberg / CEO / Explore Mars Europe
Heather Wolpert-Gawron / 21st Century Learning / San Gabriel Unified School District

  • All participants in the study are credited as co-authors on this publication. Participants indicated
    with an asterix requested credit in the body of the text for their specific contributions.
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