Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Challenging Learning with SciTrek

This January SciTrek launched a new exhibit that sends students right out of this world. At the kickoff of the Challenger Learning Center (CLC), guests had the opportunity to meet Sally Ride, the first female astronaut; meet Miles O'Brien, CNN's Space Correspondent; experience blastoff simulations; and jump in a moonwalk! Now that the center is open, though, the experiences it offers are far greater!

SciTrek's CLC, a learning experience and memorial to the Challenger 51-L astronauts, is one of 46 such centers worldwide. The CLC experience is centered around three main components:

(i) Teacher Preparation
(ii) The Mission
(iii) Post-Visit Activities

(i) Teacher Preparation. Before the class visit, teachers visit the CLC to participate in an actual mission and receive preparatory materials for use in the classroom prior to the fieldtrip. This advance preparation allows you as teachers to better facilitate your students experience at the CLC.

(ii) The Mission. The CLC uses state-of-the-art technology to simulate the conditions of a mission to space, both in the control room and in the space station. Students are assigned to one of eight teams forming the crew and given specific tasks to complete in order to have a successful mission. Half-way through the mission, the students will exchange places so that each student has an opportunity to experience a space mission from both the control room and space!

(iii) Post-Visit Activities. In order to ensure that the students get the most out of their visit, the CLC provides follow-up activities for the classroom. The learning the students get at the center is extended through further analysis on the data gathered during the mission, post-flight briefings conducted by the students, and student-run news conferences about the mission.

The Challenger Learning Center is SciTrek's most comprehensive educational program and it truly demonstrates hands-on learning. The Center already has 85 missions booked for the remainder of the school year. Atlanta City Schools, Paulding County Schools, and Gwinnett County Schools have agreed to pilot the program by sending a select number of students from their systems.