A Vision for Every Student: Exploration-Based Learning

Learning, Online & Blended, PreK-12

Kelly McGrath

As infants, we instinctively learn through active exploration from the moment we unleash our first wail as the nurses poke and prod our wrinkly, tiny bodies. We are born with a natural curiosity and an explorer mindset. That mindset guides babies and toddlers as they taste, touch, smell, listen, and observe the world around them and form brain pathways based on each of their real world experiences. When left to their own devices in a roomful of various playthings, toddlers will follow their own paths, fascinated by things that interest them. Some children become absorbed with a single object for long periods of time while others move from one bright, shiny toy to another, touching, tasting, smelling, observing, and listening along the way.

What is exploration-based learning?

Exploration-based learning is an active learning approach. Students’ abilities are dynamically balanced with difficulty level in the system to provide exhilarating and fulfilling learning experiences.  The visually and intellectually compelling storylines within the environment challenge each student to leverage their own curiosity and passion to solve complex problems using data and evidence to form arguments and reach conclusions. This model is positioned to deliver high levels of engagement and concentration while reducing stress and boredom for all students. Through these experiences, students build their levels of confidence and creativity, resulting in improved performance and sustained motivation to learn.

This learning model is also built with today’s teachers in mind. Whether it is lesson planning, evaluating, observing, collaborating with peers, or active instruction, teachers’ time is a precious resource. Exploration-based learning maximizes teachers’ time by providing real-time, meaningful data and analytics on student performance and point-of-use, individualized instructional strategies, while time on learning is increased due to sustained student motivation to learn. Targeted feedback forms the backbone of the success framework along with professional learning community forums to build capacity and personalize each teaching experience.


Another key element of this approach is the focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) subjects. A curriculum that successfully integrates these subject areas will result in empowered, new age learners who can compete internationally and make informed decisions in the science and technology-centric society of the future. Advances in education like this are critical to mitigating global change. With an initial focus on Earth, Life, and Physical Science, the curriculum will deliver standards aligned content in a real world context.

Recent research has identified several learner attributes that indicate likely success in the classroom, the workplace, and in life. As part of a STEAM curriculum, Planet3’s new platform will track, analyze, and offer opportunities to strengthen attributes such as creativity, perseverance, problem-solving, and collaboration. Students will receive rewards and recognition for working to improve these life skills within the learning environment.

Hyper-connected Technology at the Core

Integrating the most advanced Earth observing networks of NASA, NOAA, and other research entities, Planet3’s hyper-connected platform enables students to explore and contribute to real world science. In Planet3’s exploration-based learning environments, students will have the opportunity to ask their own questions and find their own answers. Empowerment will come from self-directed learning where students enjoy the process and see the personal significance of each experience. This digital platform presents the entire Earth as a living laboratory, enabling each learner to more fully understand the science of our rapidly changing planet. Real-time scientific data from various sources will be presented in multiple visual formats. Students will learn through experience how to read, interpret, and analyze data, and communicate their results within the classroom and with scientists and experts around the world.

The K-12 education technology marketplace is rapidly shifting. Access to digital devices and information is changing the way instructional materials are delivered and used in the classroom. New providers are entering this market and range from research-based, university funded learning platforms to game-based innovators, such as Rovio. This Finnish company has partnered with NASA to deliver fun learning experiences, like Angry Birds Space. At Planet3, we are working to pioneer the new teaching and learning frontier by re-igniting the natural curiosity of every student through exploration and discovery.

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Kelly McGrath is the Chief Learning Officer at Planet3. Follow Planet3 on Twitter, @exploreplanet3.

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Kim Webb /

Great explanation of Planet3’s model and the benefits of this type of learning!