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Exploration Generation Unveils New Rocketry-Themed Storyline Unit for Middle School Educators Nationwide


Free Instructional Materials Utilize the Excitement of Rocketry to Drive Student Engagement While Providing Equitable STEM Experiences in the Classroom

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October 18, 2022 – Arlington, Va.  Exploration Generation (ExGen), co-founded by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), Estes Industries, and NSTA, today unveiled its new rocketry-themed middle-level unit for educators. Designed for grades 6-8, the ExGen Model Rocket Safety Storyline Unit is available now, free of charge, at

The storyline unit, which consists of seven unique NSTA Daily Do lesson plans, puts middle school students at the center of learning to investigate an anchoring phenomenon–successful and unsuccessful model rocket flights–while exploring science concepts including forces and motion, and chemical reactions. Designed to continually spark curiosity and prompt questions from students, the unit helps educators provide a more collaborative learning experience where ideas are accessible and engaging for all students.

“AIAA recognizes that our nation’s educators are key to preparing the next generation of scientists and engineers,” said Dan Dumbacher, executive director, AIAA. “We are excited about taking this next step in the ExGen program – getting more materials into the hands of educators to do what they do best – inspire!”

AIAA, Estes, and NSTA joined forces to launch the ExGen program earlier this year to directly address the need for a more diverse and robust STEM-literate workforce, particularly in the aerospace and defense industry. ExGen provides K-12 educators with engaging, classroom-ready lessons and resources to help immerse students in real-life applications of STEM while exploring various concepts in aerospace, engineering, and rocketry.

Next week, the new instructional unit and recently launched ExGen Model Rocketry Forces Playlist will be featured at a special session during the 2022 ASCEND, apex event in Las Vegas and online. During the session, aerospace industry professionals and space enthusiasts will learn about the importance of phenomena-based, equitable STEM K-12 educational experiences. Through hands-on engagement, they will experience what it’s like to learn in today’s classroom to better support K-12 workforce development initiatives.

“We need to bridge the gap between what is happening in the classroom and the needs of the STEM workforce. This is crucial to the success of students and the future of our nation’s aerospace initiatives,” said Nicole Bayeur, director of education, Estes. “Through events like ASCEND, doors can be opened to get K-12 education into the conversation as we think about the development of our future leaders.”

On November 9 at 7 p.m. (EST), middle school educators can join a free web seminar, Exploration Generation: Sensemaking in Rocketry, in conjunction with the release of the new materials. In addition to learning about the resources, participants will discover how using a sensemaking approach to teach model rocketry can help to inspire students to pursue careers in aerospace and STEM.

“The best foundation for successful science learning is a phenomena-based approach, in which student thinking and sensemaking drive the questions. Providing students the opportunity to build their ideas through experiences bridges their initial perceptions to scientific understanding, which helps them make relevant, lasting connections between science and their everyday lives,” said Erika Shugart, Ph.D., executive director, NSTA. “The amazing ExGen rocketry-themed resources provided through this collaboration help middle school teachers deliver authentic, highly engaging learning experiences that motivate students to explore beyond the classroom.”

This year, five $1,500 grants will be given to educators or administrators at Title 1 schools to fund engaging and inclusive STEM and aerospace-related projects. Applications for the AIAA Exploration Generation Title I Grants are being accepted through October 31 at

ExGen will continue its expansion, offering additional resources for elementary and high school educators in 2023 and 2024. To access ExGen’s free instructional materials, rocketry basics, safety resources, and funding opportunities, visit

Rebecca Gray, AIAA,, 804-397-5270
Michelle Passey, Estes Industries,, 719-372-2098
Kate Falk, NSTA,, 703-312-9211

About AIAA
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society. With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

About Estes Industries
Estes Industries was founded in 1958 by Vern and Gleda Estes and found a home soon after in Penrose, Colorado (the model rocket capital of the world). Through more than six decades of hard work and innovation, Estes has grown to be the leading manufacturer of model rocket engines, kits and accessories. As of April 2018, Estes Industries is once again a family-run business, committed to enabling safe, successful flights for customers everywhere.

Estes is committed to delivering interdisciplinary STEM resources and tools to educators that give them the skills and confidence necessary to elevate learning. Estes has been a leader in STEM education for 63 years, reaching 500,000 students annually. To learn more about Estes Industries, LLC please visit

About NSTA
The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) is a vibrant community of 40,000 science educators and professionals committed to best practices in teaching science and its impact on student learning. NSTA offers high quality science resources and continuous learning so that science educators grow professionally and excel in their career. For new and experienced teachers alike, the NSTA community offers the opportunity to network with like-minded peers at the national level, connect with mentors and leading researchers, and learn from the best in the field. For more information, visit or follow NSTA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.


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