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HIGHLIGHTS:
  • Announcing The Pioneer Academics 2018 Research Journal » March 15, 2019
  • See Where Pioneer Scholars Will Go to College in 2019! » January 26, 2019
  • Pioneers Launch Questions to the Far Side of the Moon » January 25, 2019
  • Chang’e 4’s Historic Mission to the “Dark” Side of the Moon Inspires Bright Young Minds » January 19, 2019
  • Scientific American features Pioneer as one of the three leading online mentoring programs (you can sign up to learn more about Pioneer) » September 28, 2018
  • Five Keys to Fostering Independent Learning » March 11, 2018
  • Helping Gifted Students Reach Their Full Potential » January 11, 2018
  • Justice and the Arab Spring: A Guide to the Arab Street » April 28, 2017
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Our Testimonials
Professor of Physics
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Harvard University
“ It is really exciting to have such strong students engaging at such a high level. In fact, I am actually using some of the students’ research in my class at Harvard. ”
See Where Pioneer Scholars Will Go to College in 2019!

We’re very delighted to share what research 2018 Pioneer Scholars from around the world pursued and what colleges they will take their passionate selves to. The chart below lists Pioneer Scholars who received admissions from their dream college during the Early Application or Early Decision round. The chart is divided first into universities then into liberal arts colleges; it mentions the high school they attended as well as their Pioneer research paper title.  We’re very proud of these Pioneer alumni and look forward to what they’ll continue to accomplish in the years to come!

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For Pioneers of any year, if you would like to be connected with Pioneer alumni at your university, please send an email to anesce.dremen@pioneeracademics.com with your full name. Additionally, for 2018 Pioneer alumni who do not see their research paper listed, please reach out to the email aforementioned.

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  • Announcing The Pioneer Academics 2018 Research Journal

    The Pioneer Research Program is respected as the world’s only online research program with US college credit for gifted teenagers. Today it announces the students whose papers were selected for publication in the 2018 Pioneer Research Journal! These papers were nominated by our faculty members and went through a rigorous faculty peer review evaluation process to be chosen for publication. The Journal is published each year to showcase the outstanding work of select young Pioneer scholars. It represents the highest level of original research studies conducted by teenagers.

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    Each nominated paper was evaluated by the Pioneer Research Journal Committee, a panel of 36 distinguished professors from leading American undergraduate and graduate institutions, who determined which papers are to be included in the Journal. The research papers under consideration represent the top 20% of papers written in the Pioneer Research Program’s academic year of 2018.

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    For many of the nominees, the paper represents an academic milestone as well as a personal one. Under the guidance of their Pioneer professors (all distinguished educators who teach at the cutting edge of research among the top 30 universities and liberal arts colleges in the United States), Pioneer scholars mastered critical research skills, and showcased the ability of education to transcend political, personal, and geographic, and socioeconomic boundaries.

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    Abigail Romero, a senior from Walter G. O`Connell Copiague High School in New York, reflects on her Pioneer experience: “Coming into the Pioneer Academics Research Program, I already trusted Pioneer as an incredibly rich resource that I can achieve in. And that was because I really see Pioneer as an exemplar of scholarship and the amazing innovation that can take place once dedicated students can be matched up with dedicated professors who are invested in helping younger students aim high and to produce such a capstone research project at an undergraduate level.” Abigail is one among twenty-five students who were published in The Journal this year.

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    This year, 24 students were published in The Pioneer Academics Research Journal. In previous years, about the top 6% of Pioneer papers were published whereas this year has reached a historic high: the top 4.6% of Pioneer research papers were published. The breakdown is as follows: 38% STEM papers, 30% humanities papers, 16% social sciences papers, and 16% pre-professional papers (Business and Education in this case). Works by students from six different countries were published: 9 papers are from Chinese students (39%), 10 from the USA (41%), 2 from Turkey (8%), and 1 from India, New Zealand, and Tunisia (4% each).

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    “Thank you so much for selecting my research paper for publication in The Pioneer Research Journal!” says Junming Ren from The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey. “It is truly a great honor for my work to be shared in such a high-level academic journal.”

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    The following is a list of the students whose work was selected for publication in this years journal along with their high schools, the titles of their research papers, and the subject areas those papers covered:

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    Yangyang Zhao

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    Shenzhen Foreign Languages School — Shenzhen, China

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    A Quantitative Estimation of the Probability of Renal Dysfunction Resulting from the Intake of Cadmium-contaminated Rice Samples in China (Chemistry/ Environmental Studies)

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    Yao Lin

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    Culver Academies — Culver, Indiana; United States

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    A Study On Yoko Ono As A Fluxus And Woman Artist (Art History)

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    Liyang Zhou

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    Hangzhou No.14 High School — Hangzhou, China

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    Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotional Dysfunction: An Etiological Model (Psychology)

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    Elif Kulaksizoglu

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    Hisar School — Istanbul, Turkey

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    Calibrating the Salt Concentration of Water Using Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) Technique (Engineering)

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    Jiazan Sun

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    Auckland International College — Auckland, New Zealand

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    Creative Destruction in the Sharing Economy: Uber’s Impacts and Regulation (Economics)

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    Kehui Guo

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    Beijing World Youth Academy  — Beijing, China

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    Descartes’ Justification of the Reliability of Memory (Philosophy).

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    Banban Tan

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    The Affiliated High School of South China Normal University — Guangzhou, China

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    Educational Practices for Developing Life and Communication Skills Among Teenagers Having Down syndrome in United States and in China (Education)

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    Raaka Mukhopadhyay

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    Academy for Allied Health Sciences — Scotch Plains, New Jersey; United States

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    Examination of Antisocial Personality Disorder: Determining Gender Bias on MMPI Psychopathic Deviate and Evaluating Substance Abuse Relapse Rates (Neuroscience)

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    Qianyi Lu

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    Beijing No.4 High School, International Campus — Beijing, China

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    Film Noir, Urban Space, and Human Agency: Three Case Studies. (Film Studies)

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    Jing Chen

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    Nanjing High School of Jiangsu Province — Jiangyin, China

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    Gender Difference in Network Strength and Mode of Transformation in Entrepreneurial Learning (Business)

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    Abigail Romero

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    Walter G. O`Connell Copiague High School — Copiague, New York; United States

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    How do Perturbation-Based Interventions Help Reactive Balance Control in Stroke Survivors? (Biology)

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    Yuwei Guo

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    The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China — Beijing, China

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    Human Workers and Machine Poets (Science, Technology, Society)

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    Jiahui Chen

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    International Department of the Affiliated High School of South China Normal University —Guangzhou, China

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    Love Thy Neighbor: A Comparative Analysis of Public Discourse about Chinese Rural Migrant (Sociology)

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    Joanna Ding

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    Choate Rosemary Hall — Wallingford, Connecticut; United States

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    Populism & The Paradoxical Politics of Identity (Political Science)

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    Shreya Kashap

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    Monta Vista High School — Cupertino, California; United States

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    Reducing Oncogenic Behavior of MLL Fusion Proteins by Inhibiting Combinations of Genes Necessary for Leukemia Proliferation (Biology)

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    Liuxi Sun

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    Phillips Exeter Academy — Exeter, New Hampshire; United States

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    Reward Deficiency Syndrome (RDS): the “Liking” Reaction and Behavioral Implications (Neuroscience)

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    Zheyang Xiong

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    Nansha College Preparatory Academy — Guangzhou, China

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    Spontaneous Micro-Expression Recognition (Computer Science)

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    Mrinalini Wadhwa

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    American Embassy School — New Delhi, India

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    Stakeholder Analysis: An Explanation of the Botswana Paradox (History)

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    Lobna Jbeniani

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    African Leadership Academy — Roodepoort, South Africa

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    Structures for Women’s Empowerment: A Metaethical Analysis of Institutional Sexism in Modern History (Philosophy)

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    Elijah Tamarchenko

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    New Paltz Senior High School — New Paltz, New York; United States

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    The Application of the Buddhist Idea of “Non-Self” to Western Psychotherapy Practices (Philosophy)

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    Junming Ren

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    The Lawrenceville School — Lawrence Township, New Jersey; United States

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    The RAISE Act: Shutting the Doors to the Land of Immigrants (Economics)

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    Baoyan Ye

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    High School Affiliated to Shanghai Jiaotong University — Shanghai, China

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    The Transformation of Hip Hop Music Lyrics in China under Political Censorship from 2017 to 2018 (Culture Studies)

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    Max Podell

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    Piedmont High School — Piedmont, California; United States

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    This Land is Their Land: How Indigenous Peoples Are Crucial to Modern Species Conservation (Environmental Studies)

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    Rana Urek

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    Robert College — Istanbul, Turkey

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    Tilings of a 2 × n checkerboard with squares and dominoes (Mathematics)

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  • See Where Pioneer Scholars Will Go to College in 2019!

    We’re very delighted to share what research 2018 Pioneer Scholars from around the world pursued and what colleges they will take their passionate selves to. The chart below lists Pioneer Scholars who received admissions from their dream college during the Early Application or Early Decision round. The chart is divided first into universities then into liberal arts colleges; it mentions the high school they attended as well as their Pioneer research paper title.  We’re very proud of these Pioneer alumni and look forward to what they’ll continue to accomplish in the years to come!

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    For Pioneers of any year, if you would like to be connected with Pioneer alumni at your university, please send an email to anesce.dremen@pioneeracademics.com with your full name. Additionally, for 2018 Pioneer alumni who do not see their research paper listed, please reach out to the email aforementioned.

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  • Pioneers Launch Questions to the Far Side of the Moon

    In this riveting follow up to the initial discussion on the historical mission of Chang’E to the moon, Professor Mahootian responds to questions from Pioneers!


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    The Chinese lunar probe named Chang’e 4 successfully landed on the far side of the Moon at 2:30am GMT Jan 03 2019. It is the very first time in history that humans have explored the Moon’s so-called “dark” side, which, until now, it has remained something of a mystery. Though it is not really dark– the Sun shines there, too– the far side the Moon has been called “dark” because it never faces the Earth due to what astronomers call “ tidal locking.” The Moon rotates on its own axis at exactly the same rate that it orbits around the Earth. It takes the Moon 27.3 days to rotate once on its own axis, and it also takes 27.3 days for the Moon to make one orbit around the Earth. The result of tidal locking is that the same side of the Moon faces the Earth at all times.  This situation creates a major challenge for space explorers: the far side of the Moon is shielded from radio transmissions from Earth, thus preventing any direct communication– this is largely what prevented previous exploration of the Moon’s far side. China’s Chang’e program developed a plan for indirect radio contact by relaying signals through a Chang’e satellite, called the “Magpie Bridge,” located far beyond the Moon’s orbit to allow the Chang’e lander to communicate with Mission Control, back on Earth.

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    Chang’e is the Chinese Moon Goddess. In the legend dated circa  2400 BCE, she stole the immortality pill and rose up to the moon trapped as a fairy goddess. Four thousand years later, China developed advanced technology to unveil the myths of her “lunar palace” that had remained unexplored by mankind.

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    Professor Farzad Mahootian is a Clinical Associate Professor at New York University where he has been for eight years, where he teaches courses Liberal Studies courses in interdisciplinary humanities and sciences. His research has been published in the Boston Studies in Philosophy of Science, and Cambridge University Press, among others. Dr. Mahootian has been awarded grants from the Arizona State University Institute of Humanities Research, Templeton Foundation, National Science Foundation Grant, and NASA Learning Technologies Program Cooperative Agreement. He has developed and evaluated programs for NASA with the support of Raytheon Technical Services Company. Through his experiences, Professor Mahootian has conferred with scientists, teachers, and students alike and is proud to admit he has learned a lot from all parties; during the internet boom of the 1990s, he helped to provide students online access to a database of satellite data of the Earth and other planets, so they could acquire information previously used only within the scientific and scholarly community.

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    Student Questions Answered by Professor Mahootian:

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    Laura from the U.S. was selected and participated in Pioneer Academic’s astronomy field in spring 2018; her research paper is entitled “Blazar Jets Kinematics and Related Topics.”

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    The dark side of the moon has more craters than the side that we see. Why?

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    The short answer is that over the course of its history,  tidal forces tinned the surface of the near-side of the Moon, resulting in more numerous lava flowing more readily than on the far side. The flow-covered areas called “Maria,” Latin for “Seas. A large number of older craters on the near side of the Moon have been covered and erased by volcanoes and lava flows. So the next question is, “why were there more volcanoes on the near side?” The answer has to do with the effect of the Earth gravity on the near side: just as the moon tugs on Earth’s oceans to produce high and low tides easily observable  at ocean beaches, it also attracts the solid Earth, but the latter is not easily observed. Now, the same force that pulls at the Earth’s surface also pulls the Moon’s (the force of gravity felt by Earth and Moon is the same). As soon as the Moon was formed in orbit around Earth, its rotation on its own axis gradually became locked into to its revolution around the Earth. This gradual adjustment is called “tidal resonance” and it locked the Moon into the situation we observe today: only one side of the Moon ever faces Earth because the Moon’s rotation on its own axis takes exactly the same amount of time as its revolution around the Earth. Over time, the crust of Moon’s near side becomes thinner than the crust on the far side because the near side always feels the Earth’s gravity more strongly than does its far side. Lava flows came to the surface of the ancient Moon more readily on the near side– because of its relative thinness– thus covering craters more often on the near side. This process went on for as long as it took for the Moon’s core to cool off and end all of its volcanic activity.

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    Laura from the U.S.

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    Did the asteroids that hit the Moon hit Earth when life first appeared? Did those asteroids bring the necessities for life?

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    We have evidence from other missions that various organic chemicals, some of which are necessary for the maintenance of life on Earth,  are synthesized on other bodies in space. So it’s very possible that asteroids and comets, which routinely carry these molecules in the water ice (which is both on and under their surface) introduced the necessities of life when they crashed into Earth. Water ice exists all through the known universe: even the planet Mercury has ice on its surface, despite its very high temperature and extreme closeness to the Sun, since some areas of the north and south poles of Mercury and other planets are permanently in shadow.  Because of the abundance of water in the universe, any body that collides with the Moon or the Earth, will contain ice and that itself is likely to contain organic chemicals.

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    But the key question is exactly what molecules are necessary not just for maintaining life, but for actually starting life? In the field of astrobiology, we look for as many molecules as possible which could possibly aid in the rising of life. Generally, these include molecules containing nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen. Essentially, every celestial body that is able to have ice that hasn’t melted yet may have captured some of those organic chemicals. It’s a very interesting question and unless we have samples from the moons of Mars and Jupiter, it’s not really possible to answer.

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    Julie (10 year old space fan) from the U.S. Pioneer community:

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    Since the Moon is rotating at the same time it orbits the Earth, how was the probe landed on the side of the Moon that does not face the Earth?

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    The beautiful physics of bodies moving in space is called mechanics, and in the case of celestial bodies, it is called celestial mechanics. For every space flight, scientists must calculate how long it takes to get to a celestial body while that body is not only moving through space, but also spinning on its own axis. Once it gets near its destination, the spacecraft must change and stabilize and  movement to match the orbit of the planet it is trying to land on. In order to touch down on a planet or moon, you must first stay in its orbit. Depending on the angle and speed with which you enter a moon’s neighborhood, your may have to orbit the moon several times.

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    And this is where Magpie Bridge comes into play: it can communicate in near-real time with the lander (it takes 1.3 seconds for a signal to go between Magpie Bridge and Mission Control), to see if the lander is where the Chinese space agency ground control thinks it should be at any given point in time, and then relay this information back to ground control.  If the spacecraft is even a little off course in its orbit that could translate into being way off course for its landing site. The Magpie Bridge has direct communication with the lander and with mission control, and has the capacity to adjust its position, from moment to moment, from orbit to soft landing. With Chang’e 4, the information was sent back and forth via the Magpie relay and so there was a bit more of a lag in exchanging information but an absolute absence visual contact.  So, with input from the engineers at mission control, the autonomous lander had to make its own adjustments, in hopes that their calculations matched the lander’s situation. This is potentially risky because the Moon’s gravity is not uniform all across its surface variations in the solar wind could also change the lander’s orbit, so you are taking a risk whenever you make calculations not knowing what variations the spacecraft might encounter. The unexpected crash landing of an Apollo mission sub-satellite, PFS-2, led to the discovery of major variations in lunar gravity across its surface. So you are taking a risk whenever you make calculations not knowing what variations the spacecraft might encounter. You must hope you have good luck, and trust in the spacecraft’s autopilot because you can’t know if it will crash or land. The Magpie Bridge reduced the risk tremendously by continuously transmitting the lander’s position back to mission control. For those interested in learning more, the field which studies this question of simultaneous movement of moons, planets and spacecraft, look up “celestial mechanics.”

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    Why did China pick the egg of the silkworm to test on the moon? Would it be a good idea to test cockroach eggs, too?

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    I think cockroach eggs would have been great as well. Cockroaches have existed on planet Earth for 300 million years.  While earthworms and other members of the worm family, including silk worms, began to appear about 600 million years ago, silkworms as we know them, were domesticated and selectively bred not much more than 5000 years ago. Nevertheless, it certainly seems to be the case that cockroaches are more hardy than silkworms. This means that if silkworms can survive this experiment, then a broad array of organisms could also survive the Moon’s gravitational environment. Also, and perhaps more importantly,  the choice of silkworm rather than cockroach is an important symbolic gesture intended to commemorate China’s contribution of silk to the world.    

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    Albert from Beijing, China submitted his questions on the Pioneer community:

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    Since the far side of the moon always faces away from the earth, is it possible to build architectures that are only known to the builders?

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    Though I’m not positive about what it means to be “only known to the builders,” it seems to express a concern about the potential of building a station or other structures that are hidden from view. But in fact, nothing would be hidden from everyone permanently– there have been previous lunar mapping missions and NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter continues to map both sides of the Moon to this day. So it would be impossible to keep something hidden forever.

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    Iris from Shanghai, China submitted her questions on the Pioneer community:

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    What is expected to be the differences (geographic/environmental) between the dark side and the side that we can see, and what are the anticipated practical meanings of this exploration?

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    Questions about the Moon’s environment must consider geological and geochemical factors, as well as geographical ones. While there are composition maps of both sides of the moon, thanks to previous Lunar mapping missions (see the end of this feature for more links), the environment of the far side has never been sampled from the surface, so there is much to learn about the differences between the near and far side environments. The most dramatic geological difference is the absence of Maria, therefore more craters, on the far side.  The Chang’e landing site, the Von Karman crater, is located in the gigantic Aitken Basin– the largest known impact crater in the whole solar system. This site was chosen because the massive impact that created the basin has exposed the Moon’s deep crust, and likely its mantle as well. So, thanks the Chang’e 4, we may learn something really new about the Moon’s composition. Samples collected here will tell us about the early history of the Moon, and possibly give us a definitive understanding of its origin– this is incredibly exciting!  

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    Albert from Beijing:

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    Is it possible to build a launch center on the other side of the moon and use it to somehow reduce the distances needed to travel for probes on future missions? Or would that distance be small enough to be trivial?

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    The distance would not be significantly different in comparison to the distance it needs to travel from the Moon to destinations beyond. So whether a spacecraft is launched from the near or far side wouldn’t make a significant difference. It’s easier to have launch and maintain contact from the near side. NASA and other space programs plan to build stations on the near side. The amount of fuel needed to achieve lift-off from the Moon is a lot less than launching from Earth. So, after lunar space stations (which would not be a trivial cost) are built, launches from the Moon would be cost effective in the sense that spacecraft could go a lot further with far less fuel. This would be a great benefit.

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    Tommy from Canada studied physics through Pioneer Academics in the summer 2018 semester; his research paper is entitled, “Sulfur K-edge micro-X-ray Absorption Near-Edge Spectroscopy (XANES) using synchrotron radiation.”

    How will this [exploration] of the other side of the moon benefit potential future lunar missions? Should we establish a lunar research base in the future? If so, what are some advantages and disadvantages of conducting such mission? In what ways can the Chang’e 4 mission benefit future Mars exploration missions?

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    The most immediate advantage is for telescopes that would be placed on the far side of the Moon, for there will be virtually no interference from radio signals from the Earth. Furthermore, while we have established that there’s a difference between the near and far sides of the Moon (see the previous questions on this), we can verify our theories about the difference– its composition and origin– only by being there to actually collect samples, run experiments and take measurements. Without physically going to specific sites like the one that Chang’e 4 has selected, we would never have a reliable answer to your questions. Also, as indicated in an answer to a previous question about Lunar stations, the space programs of several countries agree that the Moon should be viewed as stepping stone to other celestial bodies, with Mars as the next stop. Aside from the advantage gained by Moon-based telescope, there are cost-saving advantages: we can go farther with less fuel by launching new missions from the Moon rather than from Earth.

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    Tommy from Canada:

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    Since China is slowly catching up with the United States in the arena of space exploration, do you think the success of Chang’e 4 can spark another space race between the different countries on Earth?

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    I think that Chang’e may direct more of NASA’s attention on the Moon in the future.  There has been a growing interest in the “back to the Moon” movement of the past few decades; NASA may indeed feel some competition from the Chang’e program, but there is room for collaboration as well. Why has NASA never sent a lander to the far side? This is a great question to ask someone that has worked on NASA’s lunar missions. I worked with various NASA education programs for about 10 years and during part of that time, I worked directly with NASA Headquarters. I learned that whenever NASA makes decision about selecting any mission for launch, there are always a lot of competing missions, each of which is interesting and important. So there is always the difficult choice of selecting one really good mission over another really good mission. Scientist and program managers have to weigh how much money should be invested and consider the scientific, technical, social, and political gains in each case.

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    I think the communication challenge was a factor, and certainly one that increases the cost of a mission to the far side, but it was probably not the single main issue. It’s usually a very complicated process, but looking back at the long hiatus between NASA lunar missions from the 1970s to the 1990s, it seems that someone presented the argument that “we know enough about the Moon,” and this effectively reduced interest in and funding for any Moon missions…until recently. In August 2018, NASA announced a new “sustainable campaign to return to the Moon, and on to Mars,” and marked the beginning of “America’s new Moon to Mars exploration approach” in December 2018, just ten days after Chang’e 4 was launched. Finally, here is a recent story about the potential for US-China space cooperation and collaboration, in connection with the Chang’e program.

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    Tommy from Canada:

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    If Chang’e 4 were to discover large amount of mineral deposits and intriguing rock composition, do you think it would be a good idea to start excavating the surface of the moon and conduct mining operations?

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    Here are a number of beautiful surface maps of the entire Moon (from data collected by NASA’s Clementine, Lunar Prospector and other missions), one of which is a chemical composition map that offers a lot of clues about what might lie below the surface. There have been studies about the economic feasibility of mining the moon for mineral, even for the water from Lunar ice. Mining requires heavy equipment and lots of energy. While people have proposed extracting hydrogen and oxygen from Lunar water for the energy needs, the cost of shipping heavy mining equipment to the Moon is still quite high. Here’s a Business Insider magazine article that discusses price-per-pound cost of lifting things from Earth into orbit … and these prices are just for transporting things to the International Space Station, which is actually in a low-Earth orbit. It would cost more to get things safely to the Moon!

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    Pioneer Editor from Space:

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    What additional resources can I turn to?

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    • See the NASA Moon Art gallery,  and also the Moon overview page, showing landing sites and a sampling of different kinds of maps.

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    • Here is an informative article on Chang-e 4’s mini-biosphere, from the International Business Times. News flash: here is an update about the mini-biosphere experiment: one of the seeds has germinated!

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    • The BBC website had some very good details too, but they erroneously listed fruit fly eggs rather than silkworm eggs! Surprisingly, nearly two weeks have passed and they have not corrected that error since its original publication on Jan 3. It seems that they have missed the entire symbolic dimension of the Chinese-ness of the mission!  

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    • The South China Morning Post published a story about how China’s Moon rover may be looking for a Helium isotope that could be used as alternative rocket fuel, noting that,

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    “The primary element on the moon is helium-3, which for now is too expensive to haul back to Earth. In theory, the non-radioactive isotope could be used as fuel for the next generations of spacecraft to explore deeper into space.” This is misleading because  helium-3 is not a “primary” element on the Moon– at 50 parts per billion maximum, it is hardly that. Perhaps the author meant that helium-3 is a “primary target for extraction.”  Here is an article from the European Space Agency with some more detail on the potential and cost of Lunar  helium-3.

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  • Chang’e 4’s Historic Mission to the “Dark” Side of the Moon Inspires Bright Young Minds

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    The following article, fascinating in its content about this “first” in human history, presents a stimulating dialogue between a Professor from New York University, Pioneer Scholars (students who have completed the Pioneer Global Research Program), and students who follow Pioneer Academics on social media.


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  • Scientific American features Pioneer as one of the three leading online mentoring programs (you can sign up to learn more about Pioneer)

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    You can click here to read the entire article.

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    High school students – do you want to dive into an area of study and explore a never-before answered question with a professor-mentor? Pioneer Academics, a public benefit corporation, created a research mentorship model for high school students in 2012. This unique model provides undergraduate-level credit-bearing research opportunities to talented, intellectually motivated high school students from around the world.

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    It is the only online research program for high school students that offers 28 study areas in STEM, social sciences and humanities disciplines. In the Pioneer Research Program, students work one-on-one with leading US university professors in advanced study and research of a topic of their interest, culminating in a full-length research paper. The program is conducted entirely online, allowing high school students from all over the world to participate. 1392 students from 43 countries and regions have participated in the program in the past seven years.

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    As part of its social mission, Pioneer Academics dedicates funds every year to need-based scholarships for students to participate in the Pioneer Research Program. These funds are restricted to cases in which the need of the student’s family can be reliably accredited. Students are eligible for these scholarships in countries where need can be assessed or if they are part of a non-profit organization or an educational institution that can assess need.

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    The 28 research areas include:

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    Anthropology, architecture, art history, astronomy, biology, business, chemistry, communications study, computer science, culture study, economics, education, engineering, environmental studies, film studies, history, international relations, literature, mathematics, media studies, music theory, neuroscience, philosophy, physics, political science, psychology, STS (Science, technology and society), and sociology

    Register and we will invite you to learn more by attending the online information session

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    https://pioneeracademics.com/html/joininfosession.php?UTC=America

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  • Five Keys to Fostering Independent Learning

    Article Published in The Edvocate on Dec 20, 2017

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    The Edvocate article link

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    From spotting bias to connecting learning with the world outside the classroom, these classroom practices will help students ‘learn how to learn.’

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    By Dennis Pierce

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    In too many K-12 classrooms, students are still being spoon-fed information. But this outdated approach to instruction doesn’t teach them to become independent learners and problem solvers.

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    Why is this distinction important? The test-centered courses tend to rely on a “sit and get” approach, which “stifles students’ curiosity,” says Matthew Jaskol, founder of Pioneer Academics, which offers high school students the opportunity to collaborate with college professors on original research. “If students don’t feel free to explore and take risks, that’s not a very healthy environment for learning.”

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    “The spoon-feeding has to stop,” agrees Alan November, founder of the education consulting firm November Learning. “It does not elicit awe and wonder.”

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    Simply imparting information not only fails to engage students, it also leaves them unprepared to navigate a world in which the problems don’t have nice, neat solutions. Rather than giving students information, educators should be giving them the tools and skills they’ll need to learn, think critically, and solve problems on their own, these experts argue.

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    Fostering independent learning prepares students more effectively for the rigors of college and 21st century careers. It helps them participate in a democratic society, and it ensures that students will continue learning long after they graduate.

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    Here are five keys to fostering independent learning among students.

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    1) Students must learn how to find and assess the quality of information.

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    Fostering independent learning begins by teaching students how to find the answers to questions for themselves. “Priority No. 1 is getting the right information at the right time,” November says. “If you don’t have the right information, it doesn’t matter that you’re doing critical thinking, because you’re thinking about the wrong things.”

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    Students should learn how to perform sophisticated web searches using Google search operators such as “site” and “filetype” to narrow their queries to specific domains or file types, November says. Students also must learn how to research a topic using multiple sources, and they must understand how to critically evaluate the information they find.

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    Jaskol describes how the students working on independent research projects learn how to use critical thinking skills to uncover any bias or flaws in logic. “Students learn not to take everything they read as the truth,” he says. “When a professor shows them the flaws or bias that might exist in a paper they find online, it’s an inspiring experience. Students learn to read with their own critical judgment—which is invaluable to becoming a lifelong learner.”

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    2) Students must learn how to develop new lines of inquiry.

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    To become independent learners, students must learn how to ask thought-provoking, insightful questions that will take their understanding of a topic to a deeper level. “Teaching students how to ask good questions is critical,” November says. “Many students have never been taught how to develop deeper lines of inquiry.”

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    One pathway to developing their own lines of inquiry is through research. Here, Jaskol offers a note of caution about the difference between conducting students’ own research and getting involved in others’ research projects or following a formatted research project. Though there is no better or worse experience in learning, these two kinds of effort develop different skills. The deeper lines of inquiry are best developed through following students’ own ideas, while the latter helps the students exercise the foundations of research techniques.

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    The step where rich nutrients dwell for students’ learning is picking a research topic. Students doing original research through Pioneer Academics learn how to narrow down a topic by asking probing questions that help focus their research, Jaskol says. For instance, Karalee Corley, a Pioneer student from Florida was enthusiastic about anthropology linguistics. She had an idea she wanted to delve into, but had difficulty pinpointing a topic for her paper. Her professor brainstormed with her on different directions, such as language and day-to-day conversations, language and marketing, and language and the workplace. He guided her to come up with 50 different questions for each direction. He then asked her to develop deeper lines of inquiry by following the way she raised those questions, observing the environment, and seeking the inspiration for her paper topic. These inquiry skills made a remarkable difference: after brainstorming with her professor, she spotted a pattern in the way female students adjusted their vocabulary when there were male students around, leading to her paper, entitled “Women’s Language Perpetuates Stereotypes.”

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    When it comes to developing lines of inquiry, November pointed to the Right Question Institute as an invaluable resource. The organization has developed a framework for helping students learn to develop new lines of inquiry by asking more sophisticated questions about what they are learning.

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    3) Students must learn how to collaborate and learn from others.

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    Becoming an independent learner also requires understanding how to work with—and learn from—each other. We don’t just learn from books and the internet; we also learn by communicating with our peers and with experts in the field. Students should learn how to collaborate with others and cultivate a personal learning network of peers and experts whom they can turn to for advice and support.

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    Jaskol predicts that, with world development turning everyone into a global citizen, peer learning and cross-cultural mindfulness will be key to individual success. The future will definitely favor those who can understand, communicate with, and team up with others in their network. This is the reason why Pioneer holds peer-learning sessions where scholars are obligated to learn about their peers’ research topics and offer feedback to each other.

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    As an example of the power of a global peer network, November cites Olivia Van Ledtje, who—at age nine—already had a global following on Twitter. Olivia records a video blog called LivBits in which she shares information about the books she has read and her observations about life. With the help of her mother, who is an educator herself, Liv is using social media to expand her worldview, learn from other experts, and even connect with people she admires. “Every kid should have a global network like Liv,” November says.

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    4) Teachers must learn to shift their roles.

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    Fostering independent learners requires a shift in the habits and culture of the classroom. It also requires teachers to give up some degree of control over the flow of information.

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    For example, Jaskol sees a fine line between answering students’ questions and challenging students to find the answers for themselves. Rather than bailing them out if they hit a snag in their research, he says, “the faculty should guide them towards further inspiration.”

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    5) Teachers should challenge students with authentic problems and open-ended questions.

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    With standardized tests increasingly dominating students’ academic lives, it is becoming a norm that most of the problems presented to students are perceived to have a right or wrong answer, Jaskol says. But that’s not how the problems students will encounter in the “real world” take shape. When students are challenged to explore open-ended questions that have some real-world relevance, they develop the skills and habits they’ll need to take on challenges in their lives—and their passion for learning is ignited.

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    November agrees. “If you’re solving for X, it’s just not interesting,” he says. “You’re pumping through a formula. But if you’re applying algebra to design a prosthetic for a child whose family can’t afford one, and you’ve got a 3D printer so you can create one for that child yourself, then it makes sense to study algebra.”

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    Dennis Pierce is a freelance writer who has been covering education for more than 20 years. He can be reached at denniswpierce@gmail.com.

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    http://www.theedadvocate.org/5-keys-fostering-independent-learning/

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  • Helping Gifted Students Reach Their Full Potential

    Education Week’s blogs > Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12, December 11, 2017

    By Dennis Pierce

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    When Tyler Bennett and Esther Reyes began their freshman year at Achievement First High School in Brooklyn four years ago, Monica Debbeler could tell right away they were destined for success–and that the school was dedicated to bringing the challenging opportunities they needed to them.

     

    “Tyler was truly motivated by her desire to learn, not just by grades or social pressures, but by a very deep desire to know and understand more,” said Debbeler, who is the school’s dean of college. “And Esther impressed me from day one with the seriousness with which she approached her education. She has gone above and beyond in her academics in ways no student has before.”

     

    The Challenge of Challenging Gifted Students

     

    Finding opportunities to keep gifted students like Tyler and Esther engaged in high school can be challenging. That’s true even for a school like Achievement First, a public charter school with a strong college preparatory mission, where students must be accepted into a four-year college before earning their diploma.

     

    Debbeler–a researcher who served as special projects coordinator for the 800-student school at the time–had come across Pioneer Academics, which offers college-level research opportunities to exceptional high school students worldwide.

     

    “It immediately struck me as an opportunity that would push our most intellectually curious students to a level beyond what our high school could offer,” she said. “The opportunity to do research before even enrolling in college is something that our (gifted) students are hungry for.”

     

    Collaborating with Professors

     

    According to Pioneers Academics’ program director and co-founder Matthew Jaskol, the Pioneer Research Program identifies gifted high school students and arranges collaborations with faculty from prestigious colleges and universities, who mentor the students one-on-one as they pursue original research of their own choosing.

     

    The program, which is conducted entirely online during the spring and summer months, gives high achievers an outlet in which to channel their passion for learning, while also exposing them to the rigors of college-level research. Since its founding in 2013, more than 800 students from 27 countries have benefitted from the experience. And, thanks to partnerships with several nonprofit organizations, many students–including Tyler and Esther–have received need-based scholarships to participate.

     

    Tyler, who is passionate about literature and writing, studied with a Pomona College professor for her research. She chose to compare Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me and Tony Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Esther was mentored by a professor from New York University’s Program in International Relations as she researched the challenges that Muslims face in modern France.

     

    “I feel there are some similarities between my own Mexican heritage and those who identify as Muslims,” said Esther, whose father was deported back to Mexico when she was a child, leaving her undocumented mother to raise three daughters and support the family. “In my writing and discussions, I want to talk not only about what it means to be a Mexican, but also what it means to be from different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds.”

     

    This fall, both girls have moved on to Ivy League universities: Tyler to Princeton and Esther to Yale. They credit their research experience with helping them transcend their personal circumstances and prepare for success in college. The experience “has made me a better writer,” Tyler said. “It has built up my confidence to the point that I now believe in my abilities and feel that I deserve to attend a premier university with the highest academic standards.”

     

    From the Classroom to the ‘Real World’

     

    Some of the “passion projects” that students take on within the program have important real-world implications. For instance, Indian student Rahil Bathwal used graph theory–the mathematical study of network nodes and their connections–to explore potential solutions to his native Mumbai’s landfill problem.

     

    “The waste management problems, I’ve seen in my city are quite drastic, and I wanted to develop something that could be implemented in the future,” said Rahil, who is now attending the California Institute of Technology. “This (experience) has helped me understand real-world problem solving.” Although he has moved on to college, Rahil continues to work on his research study.

     

    Pioneer Academics’ Jaskol said that students like Rahil face an often-overlooked challenge: With schools and districts focused on helping struggling students achieve grade-level proficiency, students at the very top end of the academic spectrum often aren’t getting the stimulation they need to stay engaged in school or tap their full potential.

     

    While U.S. law acknowledges that gifted students have academic needs that are not traditionally met in regular school settings, “there are no specific requirements in place for serving these students,” Jaskol said. “Instead, gifted education is a local responsibility. As a result, gifted students can end up as an underserved population. Only by challenging them — and not simply assigning them more of the same sort of work–will we discover just how much they can achieve.”

     

    Dennis Pierce is a freelance writer with 20 years of experience in covering education. He can be reached at denniswpierce@gmail.com.

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  • Justice and the Arab Spring: A Guide to the Arab Street

    Students began signing on to Pioneer Academics’ Pioneer Open Dialogue Series (PODS) landing page a half-hour early, not to get a good seat, for no one had to leave their home to attend; but to make sure the technology was working.  “Microphone?” “Check!”  “Camera?” Check!” “You’re good to go,” from Pioneer Academics Program Director Matthew Jaskol meant you were registered, signed in and ready to participate in Pioneer Academic’s first Pioneer Open Discussion Series event of 2017: Justice and the Arab Spring: A Guide to Arab Street with Princeton University Professor Lawrence Rosen, PhD.

    When 9:00 a.m. EDT arrived, 35 students from US, India, Canada, Qatar, South Africa, Turkey, Taiwan, and China were online and excited to join Dr. Rosen in a discussion of cultural components of the Arab Spring through the eyes of people on the street in the Middle East.

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    First, the students met two men politely trying to determine who was responsible for a bird escaping from a shopkeeper’s cage.  Who’s responsible for the loss? The shopper or the shopkeeper?  In Arab culture, it’s the first sentient being involved who is responsible. In this case, the bird! It is man’s responsibility to use his reason to understand this, and to enhance his relationships with others. So the shopper and the shopkeeper agree they both are responsible, and parted friends, i.e., indebted to each other.

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    Next Dr. Rosen introduced the students to Hussein from Morocco, who inquires of Dr. Rosen whether there is corruption in America. “Yes,” responds Dr. Rosen, as he cites several examples.

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    “Bribing a politician,” posits Dr. Rosen? “No, that’s just politics,” says Hussein.” “Kickbacks,” says Dr. Rosen. “No, that’s just business,” says Hussein. Then Dr. Rosen cites nepotism; and Hussein says that’s just family solidarity, and concludes, “That’s why America is a great country, because there is no corruption there!”

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    Lastly the students met Ibanik, also from Morocco, who tells us about an individual whom he knows not, based on pictures he is shown of that person in social settings. He talks about the person without regard for chronology, as if the person’s past is his present.

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    Each of these examples, Dr. Rosen explains, are manifestations of Arab culture, in which reason and relationships are paramount, and which seem unintelligible to many Westerners.  By understanding these men on the street, Dr. Rosen went on, one can better understand the Arab Spring and what it meant to the countries of North Africa and the Middle East.

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    Dr. Rosen responded to student questions submitted in advance (so he could prepare better answers) and to some rising spontaneously during his talk.

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    Dr. Lawrence Rosen, Ph.D., is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Anthropology at Princeton University. He is both a distinguished anthropologist and accomplished attorney at law.

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    Student reactions to the Pioneer Open Dialogue Series were enthusiastic, even though for some it was late night; while for others, early morning.  “It was a great presentation and it really invoked a lot of thoughts for me,” said one student. “The session was enlightening, and has helped me understand the situation of the Arab Spring from a different point of view,” explained another.

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    Pioneer Open Dialogue Series is free to persons of all ages and ethnicities from around the world. All that is required is a computer with a camera and microphone. “It’s Pioneer’s way of providing additional educational opportunities to a much wider audience than the Pioneer Research Program provides,” Pioneer Academics Program Director Matthew Jaskol states. “It’s a way of sharing great ideas,” Jaskol explained, “without regard for anything but the joy of learning.”

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    The next Pioneer Open Dialogue Series discussion is planned for Summer 2017.

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    Pioneer Academics provides 100% online educational opportunities for academically outstanding high school students around the world through it’s innovative Pioneer Research Program. Learn more at www.pioneeracademics.com.

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