Director of Space Education Office at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Dr. Kate Kitagawa Shares How Japan Inspired and Crafted Effective Aerospace Learning for the Youths

18 July 2023 ─ SEAMEO STEM-ED held a sharing experience forum tackling essential aspects of crafting learning resources and learning units. One of the world’s prominent scientists, Dr. Tomoko Lisa Kate Kitagawa, who is the Director the Space Education Office at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) ─ presented the mindset and actions behind JAXA’s journey ─ of making aeronautics enjoyable and comprehensible for Japanese students.

On Tuesday (18 July 2023) “Sharing Forum: Effective STEM Learning Units Development” took place in a hybrid mode (onsite at Avani Sukhumvit Bangkok Hotel and online through Zoom application). The event gathered prolific scientists, education experts, policymakers, scholars, and researchers to share what they have achieved ─ and how to secure the goal of pioneering learning experiences for the youths in different countries.

The event was also a part of the Strengthening Teacher Education Program (STEP), which was initiated by SEAMEO STEM-ED and its partners to elevate national and regional education standards and thrive for instructional reform in universities.

In the premise of learning units (a formulation that facilitates change in behavior, in most cases resulting in the trainee being able to perform a task the individual could not do before), Dr. Kitagawa, titled her presentation as “Learning Resources from JAXA’s Space Education Center” to showcase activities and resources JAXA has initiated to incite youths’ learning capabilities under the umbrella of “education for all.”

Education for all

Having taught in prestigious institutions such as Harvard University, Dr. Kitagawa portrayed a deep understanding of producing effective education while making it available for all. Dr. Kitagawa also highlighted that this was also demonstrated in JAXA being one of the working groups of the Asia-Pacific Regional Space Agency Forum (APRSAF).

In relation, ASPRSAF co-host and working group were set up to enhance STEAM education with effective usage of space education materials; provide all people with space education and training opportunities; and promote mutual understanding among countries in the region through exchanging experiences, knowledge, and information.

Through many creative and enticing creative activities such as contests, online games, workshops, etc., the JAXA Director exampled APRSAF’s Poster Contest with the theme of “The Moon, Mars, and Beyond.” In this activity, primary school students were given the opportunity to learn about art and composition ─ and most importantly invoke students to think about the space as a subject.

“Students can think about things and talk about things freely,” she remarked in response to the objective of the contest and the essence of learning.

Furthermore, with creativity being the key factor of the activity, higher-level school students can partake in Kibo Robot Programming Challenge. It is an educational program in which students solve various problems by programming free-flying robots (Astrobee and Int-Ball) in the Kibo module within the International Space Station (ISS). Kibo-RPC has inspired students to develop their educational and professional goals to a higher level whilst also learning cutting-edge methodologies and honing their skills in STEM.

Another activity coined “Earth-graphy” or remote sensing program emerged from the intention of using data and research methods (Earth Observation Research Center in April 1995 and the Satellite Applications and Operations Center (then- Satellite Applications and Promotion Center) in May 2006.) ─ for students to learn together about the earth.

“We start not from space far, far away, but we have a consciousness of looking at art as our main object. By doing so, space is not an external thing to us, but space and its activities really mean a lot to the individuals on Earth,” Dr Kitagawa said ─ while explaining further that this also allows the youths to be aware of the impact in the world (in this case global warming is visible in the observation of satellite imagery).

Another learning resource regards Education technology (EdTech) that JAXA is developing. This is a digital education through a game-based learning activity, which served as an extension to the “SLIM” project (a small-scale exploration lander designed for pinpoint landings on the Moon’s surface).

In addition, Dr Kitagawa said this digital education does not target a specific age group of students (primary, secondary, or higher education), however, teachers and parents could have their contribution to learning STEM.

“We are not only thinking about the style of learning from teachers to students, or parents to students, but we are building a pathway and a parallel way of teaching” Dr. Kitagawa underlined.

As Dr. Kitagawa’s presentation concludes, it is distinctive to visualize how Dr. Kitagawa and JAXA capitalize on different learning resources ─ either from partnerships with renowned organizations ─ or developing their own innovative learning materials. Nevertheless, SEAMEO STEM-ED who initiated this sharing experience forum ─ and who constantly seeks expertise in STEM education to together propel STEM education in the region ─ will soon establish collaborative programs with JAXA and Japan.


JAXA is the Japanese national air and space agency, established on 1 October 2023 through a merger of three previously independent organizations (Science [ISAS], the National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan [NAL], and the National Space Development Agency of Japan [NASDA]).

JAXA is responsible for research, technology development and the launch of satellites into orbit, and is involved in many more advanced missions such as asteroid exploration and possible human exploration of the Moon.

More information about JAXA:

Dr. Tomoko Lisa Kate Kitagawa is the Director of the Space Education Office (Space Education Center) ​at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

She received her B.Sc. degree in mathematics and life sciences with a minor in political science from the University of British Columbia and earned a PhD in history from Princeton University in 2009.

She went on to teach history at Harvard University. Prior to her appointment at Harvard, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations. There, she learned about the importance of education in the context of international relations; her work experience inspired her to create unique history courses that reflected her views on cultural diplomacy.

More about Dr. Kate Kitagawa: