Teaching Martians: An Interview with Rachael Mann

You’re in for a treat! On Saturday, Dec. 1, educator and author Rachael Mann will lead a keynote luncheon at the 2018 STEM is CTE Symposium, during which she’ll address the martians in your classroom.

Aptly titled, Mann’s new book cowritten with Stephen Sandford, former director of space technology exploration at NASA, The Martians in Your Classroom reveals an urgent need for the convergence of STEM and CTE in every learning space. Mann and Sandford discuss the challenges and responsibilities that go along with preparing students for careers that don’t exist yet. They’re out of this world!

To talk about her new book, the STEM is CTE Symposium and interstellar professional development, Rachael Mann sat down with ACTE for an interview.

In what ways is it uniquely challenging to teach a “Martian” compared to previous generations?

In some ways it’s less challenging. Educators no longer have to be the only expert in the classroom. While students connect with rich resources readily available online — and through other digital means such as virtual and/or augmented reality — teachers serve as facilitators, guiding students as they discover, create and innovate.

It is challenging, in that students are able to access information at a rapid rate and it can be more difficult to keep their attention when using traditional teaching techniques. Educators must keep up with the rate of change. Teachers who rely on traditional lecturing, packets and worksheets will find their students tune out. I had a college professor who frequently said, “It’s a sin to bore a child.” In today’s classroom, teachers need to leverage resources and techniques to ensure that students are engaged and learning in a way that will prepare them for their future reality.

How can CTE teachers break down the classroom walls to create globalized learning spaces as referenced in The Martians in Your Classroom?

While we observe #globalcollaborationweek, what a perfect time to ask this question! The world reaches far beyond the walls of a classroom and should be reflected in our learning spaces. Educators and students are not only able to access a global database of information online, but they are also able to connect virtually with other students and industry experts around the world.

Students, employees and employers no longer compete against local talent, alone, as individuals are able to work remotely and they adapt more easily to new work locations and environments. This creates a more competitive workforce, both for the employer and employee.

What can attendees expect from your keynote luncheon at the 2018 STEM is CTE Symposium?

The Martians in Your Classroom isn’t just about space; it’s a metaphor for the future of education based on the forecasted changes in the world around us, both on and off of planet Earth. According to the Institute for the Future, 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. That’s just 12 years away! Students in kindergarten in 2018 will enter this new reality when they graduate from high school. For many, the concept of preparing youth for this future can be daunting and overwhelming. Attendees will leave my keynote luncheon at the 2018 STEM is CTE Symposium with an understanding of the “Big 5” things they can do now to prepare students for tomorrow.

How does space exploration apply to varied subjects?

Career and technical education is the playground where STEM principles come to life. When we think of solving the world’s big problems — traffic, cancer, terror, world hunger or water crises — each solution requires STEM and CTE knowledge and skills, along with an innovative mindset. Space exploration is applicable to every content area and grade level and is a fantastic way to connect subject matter content to STEM. Consider a few examples:

Fire Science

On Earth, flames rise. In space, they move outward from their source in all directions. What does this mean for fire science in the context of space travel?

Culinary Arts

What impact has space travel already had on the food industry? What dietary considerations must be taken into account when planning a trip to Mars?


I encourage you to research NASA’s Vascular Tissue Challenge. What additional problems must be addressed in the realm of biomedical space travel? What advances have been made in medicine as a result of space exploration?


The construction pathway prepares future employees to build our future, whether it’s homes, corporate buildings, community facilities or off-planet structures. What additional considerations need to be made for off-planet structures?

Power, Structural and Technical Systems

Within this pathway students “design agricultural structures as well as machinery and equipment. They develop ways to conserve soil and water and to improve the processing of agricultural products.” This will become even more important in years to come. What can we learn about our own environment from the viewpoint of space? Will we be able to grow natural resources for human consumption?

Fashion Design

What impact has space travel already had on the clothing industry? What factors will need to be taken into consideration when designing space suits for the first martian colonists?

What tools can educators seek out for professional development, to help them teach effectively in these spaces?

The Martians in Your Classroom provides tons of resources for educators. They can visit the resources tab on my website and follow #MartianClassroom on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn for relevant information and ideas to incorporate in your learning spaces.

ACTE is a fantastic place to go for the most up-to-date AND projected trends in education and the workforce. Be sure to check out the magazine, Techniques, and its new blog! Attend ACTE’s CareerTech VISION 2018 in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 28–Dec. 1, and the STEM is CTE Symposium on Saturday, Dec. 1 for even more resources and opportunities for collaboration.

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