elon musk ad astra reinventing school


Did you know Elon Musk is quietly reinventing school?

There’s a lot of noise made by those enthralled with Elon Musk’s ventures into space, electric vehicles, solar power, and getting to Mars. But did you know he is also taking some time to reinvent school? There’s a little-known ultra-private school for mostly SpaceX employees called Ad Astra (it means ‘to the stars’ in Latin just FYI) that has a few interesting characteristics.

Key Features Of Elon Musk’s ‘Ad Astra’

  • There’s an assembly line approach that helps students learn about what they’re good at – at that particular moment. Some students excel at language learning or math at a particular time. That is nurtured with personalized learning and a welcoming environment.
  • There are no grade levels.
  • It focuses on learning how to solve problems and focus on problems not tools. In the interview embedded below, Musk explains “let’s say you’re trying to teach people about how engines work. A more traditional approach would be saying, ‘we’re going to teach all about screwdrivers and wrenches.’ This is a very difficult way to do it.”

Little is known about Ad Astra other than the above information and the video you’ll see below. There’s no social media presence nor is there a website.

That being said, it’s fun to attempt to draw conclusions about what a typical school day must be like at Ad Astra. Hopefully we’ll learn a bit more about this undertaking if the school starts sharing a bit more.

In the meantime, here are some ideas on how the school might work and how it could potentially reinvent school as we know it. Tell me – would this typical day be something you’d like to experience or no? Share your thoughts down in the comments or by chatting with @DailyGenius on Twitter sometime. We love to chat and hypothesize.

A Typical Ad Astra Day (Fictional – Just My Hypothesis)

  • Gather with your 15-20 other classmates of various ages in a warm and welcoming room.
  • Share a few interesting things you learned about over the past 24 hours. Identify where you learned these things and if the medium was something other than a textbook.
  • Get personalized support, response, and pedagogy for the duration of the morning.
  • As a student, you’ll get tasked with project-based learning activities where you’re handed difficult puzzles and questions that need you to learn critical thinking and problem solving skills in order to succeed.
  • Lunch time – perhaps at the SpaceX cafeteria? Hopefully better than Tang or astronaut food ?
  • Regroup back at Ad Astra to discuss the long-term projects you’re working on with 2-3 classmates.
  • Work on your chosen assembly line track where you deep-dive into language learning, arts, STEAM, engineering, whatever. Just make sure you’re passionate about it and ready to learn something incredible.
  • Share what you’ve learned with the rest of the group so they can have similar breakthroughs and collaborative learning.
  • Break time – watch some online learning videos, make your own videos, remix a TED Talk.
  • Discuss what being a contributing member of society means. What did you do today that made you help the planet? What will you do tomorrow?
  • Time for a ride home – hop in the Tesla Model S and quietly cruise home to begin working on tomorrow’s presentation about what you’d do on a typical day on Mars.
  • Throw on your rocketship pajamas, read To Space And Back by Sally Ride, and get some rest.

Watch Elon Musk Candidly Discuss ‘Ad Astra School’ Below:

On Musk’s School Experiences

“I hated going to school when I was a kid,” Musk told his interviewer. “It was torture.”

Musk was living in Pretoria, South Africa when he was the victim of some sever bullying. Classmates threw him down a stairwell and in other instance he was beaten so badly he was taken to the hospital.

“They got my best [expletive] friend to lure me out of hiding so they could beat me up. And that [expletive] hurt. For some reason they decided that I was it, and they were going to go after me nonstop.

That’s what made growing up difficult.

For a number of years there was no respite. You get chased around by gangs at school who tried to beat the [expletive] out of me, and then I’d come home, and it would just be awful there as well.” -Elon Musk

What’s Next?

We don’t know enough about the Ad Astra school, goals, funding, etc. And that’s okay. It’s a small experiment akin to AltSchool where a more personalized approach is being taken thanks to some high levels of resources. That’s sadly what it takes to create these kinds of new schools but it’s a start. When we figure out a way to have truly personalized human-powered learning (aka no artificial intelligence, please), we will be able to really change the future.

Until then, let’s hope Ad Astra is successful and we all get to learn more about it in the near future.

Before we all have to move to Mars, at least.

Thumbnail image by OnInnovation via Flickr cc

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Jeff Dunn

Jeff is an education and technology lover who has worked in far too many industries to count. Okay, like maybe 5 or 6. Jeff can indeed count that high but it’s not recommended. Jeff also likes to write bios in the third-person.


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