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Plouffe Academy Seventh Graders Named National Winners in American Student Assistance ‘Solve Together’ Contest

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American Student Assistance (ASA), a national nonprofit focused on fostering students’ understanding of post-secondary education and career pathways

BOSTON, May 25, 2021 American Student Assistance (ASA), a national nonprofit focused on fostering students’ understanding of post-secondary education and career pathways, announced during a virtual ceremony May 11 the “Galactic Girls,” a team of middle school students from Plouffe Academy in Brockton, Mass., had won the inaugural national ASA Solve Together: Tomorrow’s Leaders Tackling Today’s Challenges contest. The school was awarded $10,000, and the team of students won $1,500.

ASA Solve Together is a national competition designed to encourage career exploration and skill-building for middle school students through project-based learning and teamwork. Each proposed challenge is aligned to grade-level standards so educators can incorporate them into daily learning and help students build critical foundational skills like communication, critical thinking and collaboration. Student teams select a career role — such as the role of a government official, restaurateur, nonprofit leader, engineer, scientist, architect — identify a challenge, develop a solution, and build and present their project.  

With support from guidance counselor John MacDonald, Ph.D., the team of five seventh graders took on careers as scientists, developing comprehensive blueprints and models for hydroponic farms to sustain a colony on Mars.

Through extensive research, a visit to the Boston Science Museum, and an interview with former director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, the Galactic Girls designed innovative solutions that could prepare humans for life on Mars. They developed and tested a model of their hydroponics infiltration system with a paper tube and tissue paper and staged a Mars dust simulation with a box, model Mars rover, graham crackers, and a blow dryer. Learn more about their work here.

“We are fascinated with the idea that we could someday live on another planet like Mars, which is why we wanted to further investigate how we could sustain life there using solutions that are available today,” said John MacDonald, guidance counselor, Plouffe Academy. “We 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.”

“Students from all backgrounds crave learning that feels relevant to their daily lives. Providing equitable access to project-based learning and career exploration opportunities is critical in enabling educators and schools to prepare students for long-term success,” said ASA President and CEO Jean Eddy. “The Galactic Girls illustrated the tremendous potential that can be tapped when students are afforded critical work-based learning experiences. Our future is in good hands with these bright young women, especially if they end up pursuing careers in STEM.”

The winning team was selected from 189 total submissions from 23 schools across 12 states. The submissions were reviewed by a panel of judges that included representatives from the Association for Middle Level Educators (AMLE) and ASA. AMLE is a premier partner of ASA Solve Together.

In addition to bragging rights and the cash prize, the school will receive a trophy and a banner to acknowledge their achievement.

“We are deeply appreciative to ASA for providing our students this meaningful, hands-on, and exciting learning opportunity. I’m excited our students were able to showcase their intelligence and creativity on the national stage,” said Michelle Nessralla, principal at Plouffe Academy. “American Student Assistance’s Solve Together contest provided a fun and challenging opportunity for our students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom and think creatively about how they can use their skills and talent to contribute to the future.”

To learn more, go to asasolvetogether.org.

About American Student Assistance® (ASA)

American Student Assistance® (ASA) is a national nonprofit committed to helping kids know themselves, know their options, and make informed choices to achieve their education and career goals. ASA® has a 60-year legacy of working directly with students to increase their access to higher education through loans and financial education. ASA has turned its experience into impactful solutions for students in grades 6-12 to help them pursue their dreams. To learn more about ASA, visit www.asa.org/about-us.

 

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