Tech entrepreneur. Business magnate. Space explorer. Philanthropist. Angel investor. Social media mogul. Father of ten (Yeah, you read that right. Ten).
And until recently, world’s most richest man 😅
Yep, safe to say Elon Musk has racked up a pretty impressive repertoire of accomplishments in his 51 years on planet Earth.
But can he now add school principal slash education innovator to his resume?
In case you missed it, Musk is the brains behind the mysterious experimental Astra Nova school, which is gaining attention for its ‘experimental’ approach to learning.
The Washington Post’s Peter Holley described Astra Nova, which started off in Musk’s home in Bel Air but is now headquartered in his rocket company SpaceX, as a ‘secretive laboratory school’ which teaches a select number of students between the ages of 10 and 14 may be ‘the most exclusive school in the world’.
“At Astra Nova, we make progress by challenging ourselves to be maniacally creative; we design each year anew,” says Astra Nova’s executive director Joshua Dahn.
“And we focus our energy on what really matters to the development of our students: their disposition towards learning and complexity, their ability to work effectively in teams, and their capacity to make ethical decisions. Every class and experience starts with these principles.”
That, says Dahn, is achieved through a perpetually-evolving curriculum that focuses on being compelling to students.
There’s also no formal grading system at the fully online, non-profit, tuition-based school.
But students do graduate with high school transcripts and recommendations, which Astra Nova claims get graduates into some of the most selective schools in the United States.
“We focus our energy on what really matters to the development of our students: their disposition towards learning and complexity, their ability to work effectively in a team, and their capacity to make ethical decisions.”
The idea was born from a conversation almost a decade ago that Dahn had with Musk – who’s famously sceptical of traditional education – about how they didn’t think regular schools were doing a good enough job of teaching kids.
“(Musk) asked me, ‘what should a school look like?’ And I came up with some semi-coherent answer and then we talked about it for a bit and he was like, ‘well do you wanna do this?’”
“And I was like, of course!”
So what sets Astra Nova apart from traditional educational institutions?
Well, instead of taking classes in geography, music, language or sports, Astra Nova’s curriculum focuses on critical thinking and problem-solving – specifically using the concept of First Principles and Conundrums.
In case you’re not familiar with the term, First Principles is concerned with figuring out how things work by boiling them down to the basics and ‘not being bound by what’s already been done’.
Conundrums, on the other hand, are questions designed to help you disagree, constructively’.
Ultimately, Astra Nova’s model challenges the concept that there are other ways to learn that can actually be more effective than sitting in a classroom.
The question is, is it really rocket science?