An ‘Out of This World’ Program Educates Students

McKenzie Shea and Hailey Skinner

The devastating aftermath of the Challenger explosion in 1986 may have been the ending of seven lives and a space shuttle, but it was also the beginning of something: the Challenger Learning Center. The centers began 26 years ago as a tribute to the lives lost in the tragic explosion, and inspires young people through science and engineering.

There are more than 50 learning centers across the world, the nearest one in Ferguson, just outside of St. Louis. Although they have the same goal, the centers differ in sponsorship depending on the location.

“Our center here in St. Louis is unique because we’re organized through the partnership of the Ferguson school district … the St. Louis Science Center, and the Education Plus,” Tasmyne Front, director of the St. Louis center said.

Throughout the year, students of all ages and interests enter the learning center to advance their knowledge of space while having fun. During the summer, the Challenger Learning Center offers students younger than 13 the opportunity to learn about engineering and space through camps and classes. Older kids have the opportunity to participate in a space simulation and build model rockets to launch.

This summer, many camps and programs have taken advantage of the opportunities offered at the center. One of the most recent groups to attend the center was an aviation camp at St. Louis University (SLU).

“My favorite part of the Challenger Learning Center has definitely been the space simulation because I got to pretend to work in an actual space shuttle,” said SLU aviation camper Alex Keys. “It was really fun.”

Perhaps the most meaningful part of the center isn’t the mission simulation or the classes offered but the connection future astronauts can make with the victimized astronauts of the past.

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Students prepare to launch their rocket in the competition to fly their rocket the furthest.