Enzo, Haley and Emma are ordinary kids working on an extraordinary mission. They are joining up with a team of Special Forces medics and elite, global surgeons to deliver medical aid to the Rama Indians of Nicaragua in the spring of 2013.
In partnership with HumaniTV, the journey will be beamed to tens of thousands of kids around the globe by satellite as the three middle school students trek through the jungles of Central America performing research on sustainable agriculture and seeing first hand how science and innovation improves peoples' lives.
"We want to send a message to kids that science isn't just about getting a better job and making more money," says team captain and the creator of Exploration nation, twelve year old Enzo. "If it wasn't for science, we'd still be sitting in a cave somewhere chomping on a mammoth bone in the dark."
The high profile expedition was created by Enzoology Education, a social enterprise that produces Exploration Nation and HumaniTV, an online network featuring humanitarian aid programming to send the message that "science education is the tide that lifts all boats".
Enzo, Haley and Emma are part of the cast of Exploration Nation, an education program that features real kids doing real science research around the globe. These adventures are captured on video and coupled with lesson plans designed to inspire and motivate elementary and middle school students to take up careers in science.
America's Future as a Global Innovator Lies at the Feet of our Youngest Citizens
According to a 2009 study by Raytheon, about 60% of students lose their interest in science before the age of 13. The study is just one that shows how students start elementary school genuinely excited about science. By the time they hit seventh grade, the majority feel that science is "boring" and irrelevant to their lives.
Dave Wilson, director of academic programs at National Instruments, stated "In order for students to remain engaged in math and science, they need to actually experience the theory that educators put before them. Bringing the theory to life through hands-on experiences really helps students understand and learn better and makes the concepts more relevant to them." National Instruments is well known for its technical innovation and dedication to science and math education.
"Many science principles have been the same for hundreds of years." says Robert Bourdelais of Ward's Natural Science. "We are using 19th century methods to teach 21st century kids. Students today need to touch and feel science and learn by doing. A lecture environment doesn't inspire today's young students. The way we teach them needs to evolve and align with ever changing technology which is becoming the center of our modern world."
It should be no surprise that presenting science in a dry, isolated context to today's super stimulated kids results in students becoming more and more disconnected from how innovation is at the core of human existence. The irony of this belief is lost on the most wired generation in history.
It is a terrible irony that young people don't believe science to be relevant to their lives when they are totally immersed in some of the most advanced technological innovation in the history of mankind. Even worse is the idea that any one of these kids has the potential to cure cancer, solve the energy problem or invent the next insanely great thing. Let's just hope those kids are not in the 60% who fall through the cracks.
How Does Helping the Indigenous People of Nicaragua Help America's Students?
According to world renowned paleontologist Dr. Jack Horner, "I think it's time to do away with traditional classrooms where information is simply disseminated to students who are then expected to regurgitate that same information. We must now create environments where students have to think or create and solve problems or write using their imaginations in order to pass classes..." Horner says. "We need to show kids that active participation in science is exciting and important while motivating them to have their own adventures instead of hearing it second-hand."
Team XN: Expedition Central America is designed to inspire students to get actively involved in hands-on scientific study and show them how innovations in agriculture, renewable fuels, ethnobotany and medicine improve the living conditions of all people - especially the impoverished.
The Rama Indians of the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua are on the receiving end for the Expedition. "We chose the Rama to illustrate what life would be like minus innovation." says Dr. Alfredo Lopez Salazar, owner of the Rio Indio Lodge in Nicaragua and a long time supporter of the indigenous populations in Central America. Dr. Lopez continues, "The Rama have a sophisticated tradition of thriving in the rain forest and an intimate knowledge of the plants and animals that surround them. But they currently struggle to fulfill their basic needs, such as medical care."
Team XN: Expedition Central America
The team of kids and doctors will bring access to a wide range of medical procedures, basic drugs like antibiotics and analgesics as well as water purification and curriculum materials for the only school in the village.
The fourteen day trek through the jungle will include several stops to create a series of lesson programs for Exploration Nation on subjects ranging from sustainable tropical agriculture and renewable energy to ethnobotany and austere medicine. These lessons will include instructional materials and video for elementary and middle school students.
The Expedition is also broadcasting live to classrooms across the United States each day of the journey, free for any educators who want to follow the adventure as a learning experience for their students. The team is raising money for the expedition using a crowd funding strategy a growing trend in the scientific community.
Thirteen year old Exploration Nation host, Emma, states, "I'm not sure what to expect. I guess the kids there won't be much different from the kids here. They just don't have as much stuff and when they get sick, they can't go to the doctor. So we are bringing the doctors to them."
Learn more about the Expedition here: http://explorationnation.com/expedition-central-america
All images by Pete Monfre.