QUEST Approach & Teacher Facilitation Ideas 


Guiding Question:

How can we grow plants on Mars?


To understand this question, it is important to find out more about greenhouse systems, 

Working together, you can use a QUEST approach that offers a hybrid project- and problem-based learning pathway to explore the issues.  Quests empower students to investigate issues relevant to them with the goal of being a problem-solver.  This Quest process includes five Stages - Question, Uncover, Explore, Solve, and Teach. The online sessions culminate with students’ designing and implementing a positive solution that makes a difference that they can share with others. 


Q - Question

All Quests start with questions, many questions, that help create the path forward. In this Quest, students will: 

  • survey what they already know about water use and availability

  • ask questions about the impact of water issues on people and the environment 


U - Uncover

Here students begin answering some of their questions about water. Focus and driving questions they will want to answer may include: 

  • What are the important water issues both short term and long term and what are the community-based problems?

  • What is the history of water availability in our community for multiple uses, and how does this history contribute to an understanding of the different perspectives? 


E - Explore 

​In this stage, students will explore the impact that the water quality, shortages and availability is having regionally and locally. They will hear from experts who can share information about the different perspectives, data being collected and the current status of water use, quality and availability.  Are the current policies sustainable, what variables impact water issues (drought, fires, fracking, etc.), moving forward?  


S - Solve

As they develop their expertise, students will apply their new understanding to reading and interpreting the maps and graphs, as well as describing and defending their personal positions on the future of water, as a natural resource, that is for everyone. 


T - Teach

Others.​ ​With new experience, knowledge, and understanding comes responsibility. How can your students share what they have learned along with their proposed solutions with others in their communities so that they can address issues and be student-leaders?  This can include podcasts, blogs, community water festivals as some options.


The QUEST Approach was created by Captain Planet, , ©2020


Now you’re Ready for the QUEST

What is the QUEST?



From your Reading and Research comes Questions.

  • Who answers the questions? (not Dr. Cannady)

  • The MENTORS answer the questions. They help you connect the dots from all your Reading and Research.

  • Ask a LOT of questions. Then discuss with other students. 

  • MENTORS can ask guiding questions to the students to flush out students Understanding of how to grow plants on Mars and all that goes with that. (Systems and Subsystems)



  • Understanding, is going to come out of the actions students take

  • This is a Student-Driven adventure. 

  • Students have to do the work. It is from students' thoughts and ideas that mentors can begin to inspire and inform student interests.



  • After you understand, you begin to form ideas about your unstoppable force on how to grow plants on Mars. 

  • That's where you're going to Explore your ideas. 

  • Explore your ideas. You and your mentors can now narrow the scope and define the deliverables that Reflect your interests and passions Related to growing plants on Mars. 



  • Once you Explore your ideas with your Mentors, you begin to Solve the problems that are important to you.

  • You solve them with a TEAM.

  • Your focus can be a Call to Action, a Process of Applied and Experiential Learning that matters to you



  • The "T" is the final stage. TEACH

  • During the final presentation you're going to Teach us all what you learned.

  • What are your ideas for things you want to do after the presentation, related to growing plants on Mars?

  • How can you inspire other students and the next generation to go on their learning adventure?

  • Tell Us: What will you do, or say, or solve that inspires other students to connect with aerospace mentors in order to discover their passions?   



  • Reply All to this email with at least three questions that arise from your Reading and Research.

  • BUG ME & the Mentors for anything you need. 

  • Let me know what I can do to serve your interests and passions.

  • DON'T  WAIT - Take initiative ASAP. If you wait for an adult to tell you what to do, you will not be on a QUEST.

  • Know that most of the work does NOT need to be a zoom meeting.  Meetings are tag ups to update others on your progress and to actively and passionately discuss what to do next.  

  • I will celebrate the day that students talk 90% of the time and adults talk 10%. 

  • Get to E as soon as you can. Then prioritize working with mentors to refine and be ready for S.

  • Mentors: Reply all with advice, suggestions, anything that brings us together.  Don't worry about formal meeting invitations.  Jump in with both feet. 




Teachers master the difference between teaching and facilitating


Facilitators support group learning and team building. They can determine what the group knows so the group can build on that knowledge. A facilitator helps the group establish a set of ground rules, as well as its own learning objectives. We have implemented strategies that show the difference between a teacher and a facilitator.



When a teacher walks into a classroom, they take charge of the learning environment. Clear and concise objectives delineate what the student learns on any given day. The teacher is responsible for measuring how much information the student learns. Evaluation is often in the form of tests, but the teacher may use other measurement tools to determine if the student met the teacher’s learning objectives. (Does this sound familiar?)



Facilitators may or may not be subject area experts. They do have the ability to support group learning and team building. In any group setting, a facilitator can quickly determine what the group knows so the group can proceed to build on that knowledge and questions. By asking questions (open-ended and probing questions) and keeping the group focused, a facilitator helps the group establish a set of ground rules, as well as its own learning objectives.


The facilitator also helps the group determine and summarize what group members learned from their research and activities. (How is this different and how does a facilitator do it?) Remember that the Martian Greenhouse project is student-directed and teacher/mentor facilitated so we need to be mindful of how to support the students! 


Solving the unknown vs the known creates an environment where all parties build relationships by taking risks, failing, redesigning, and discovering how teams work to solve real problems. Students, teachers, and mentors are having to think in real time.

An agile approach means that all parties take part in the design of the project.  Experiential learning is a priority as students actively participate, create solutions, take initiative, and apply what they learn to the real world.


Benefits Provided by Facilitation

Facilitation offers everyone in the group the chance to express their ideas and to feel as if they are part of a team. Since the group arrives at a mutual conclusion, it’s easier for individual members to carry out the group’s goals and to feel less inclined to work on individual agendas. A facilitator helps individuals build on their skills and learn new ones. Facilitation serves as a positive way to clarify misunderstandings among a diverse group of individuals.


Active Listeners

Teachers often act as facilitators, and facilitators sometimes teach. In order for either to be successful, they must be an active listener. Facilitators in particular make use of this skill. They listen to an entire statement made by a group member before responding. They try to understand the group member’s point of view in a nonjudgmental way. Active listeners often ask questions of the group to clarify what group members are saying. Active listeners are slow to jump to conclusions and keep the group focused on the subject of discussion.


Tools of a Facilitator

  1. Invite everyone to share their ideas and their thinking to support the ideas

  2. Provide wait time for group members to think about their ideas

  3. Respond to the group to keep the discussion focused on the goals

  4. Provide feedback to keep the learning moving forward

  5. Ask open (probing) questions that have multiple possible solutions

  6. Suggest a resource or a mentor that could help

  7. Suggest a thinking skill they could use

                                                i.          Let’s compare these two ideas…

                                                ii.         What do you predict will happen…

                                                iii.        Let’s analyze this problem.

                                                iv.        What evidence do we have…

                                                v.         What do you speculate might happen if…

                                                vi.        What conclusions might you draw…

                                                vii.       In what situation might you apply this solution

                                                viii.      As you evaluate these alternatives…


Thinking Skills Applied to Solving a Problem

A.   Generate possible solutions

B.   Evaluate possible options

C.   Predict consequences

D.   Apply best possible solution