Victorian era philosopher Herbert Spencer once penned, “The great aim of education is not knowledge, but action.” As the workforce demands of the knowledge-based economy continue to require adept students with a burgeoning skill set, the timeline for developing this knowledge and crafting the foundation from which these abilities can be formed should arguably begin prior to enrollment in postsecondary education. Yet so often middle and high school educators find themselves consigned to a system rooted in measuring the surmised knowledge of students through graded assignments, quizzes, and other standardized tests, that they’re left unable to surround them with hands-on experiences to put that knowledge into practice and tangibly support critical learning through trial, error, and curiosity. Likewise, the validity of manifested outcomes inherent with knowledge refined through applied action is often devalued or dismissed when compared to those honed in the traditional classroom environment. This is a problem. One solution is called “pre-college outreach.”
Here at Michigan Tech, we recognize the value and critical need for pre-college outreach and its impact on youth, and the belief in action-based learning is woven into the very fabric that defines our institutional mission. The scope and range of our outreach engagement is vast: from faculty-led activities funded through the National Science Foundation, to educational programming hosted by the Center for Science and Environmental Outreach, to APS Mobile Lab, to Summer Youth Programs and Mind Trekkers driven by the Center for Pre-College Outreach, just to name a few. Annually, Michigan Tech pre-college outreach events, programming and activities reach audiences averaging over 75,000 local, domestic, and international students. We do it by catalyzing partnerships with industry and foundations, mobilizing faculty/staff/student volunteers, and connecting opportunities with results. And we do it because we can.
To effectively cultivate the robust talent society needs to thrust forward, the talent that will be polished through postsecondary education, positively influencing and exciting youth with educational experiences that immerse their senses cannot be overlooked–especially when they’re not able to access these experiences anywhere else. Investment in this immersive process of authentic learning through earnest exploration has propelled affinity for outreach in departments across campus, bucking the precedent at many institutions wherein the case for outreach falls far secondary to most traditional functions of university, such as teaching, and research. Through unconventional programming and deployment of nontraditional learning spaces, Michigan Tech has doubled-down on facilitating multiple platforms of action-based educational experiences for volumes of youth that are catalyzing excitement and enthusiasm for learning across the country.