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Learning with NASA Scientists at Wisconsin Sites

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Students at 10 Wisconsin after-school programs will practice real-world scientific inquiry and engineering design this year with the guidance of scientists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Earth from space
Photo courtesy of NASA STEM Challenge.

The 10 Wisconsin programs are all federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC).

They are among 146 such sites from 15 states selected to participate in two national challenges for kids in grades 5-8. The challenges are funded by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) in partnership with NASA.

Only 14 sites nationwide were selected for the new pilot program, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Earth (GLOBE). Of those 14 sites, 3 are in Wisconsin:

  • Adams-Friendship Middle School
  • Boys and Girls Club of Portage County (Jefferson Elementary School for the Arts, Stevens Point)
  • Horizons Elementary School, Appleton

Students at these locations will collect and analyze atmospheric measurements to determine how clouds impact Earth’s energy systems. The program brought local facilitators to NASA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, for training.

Local facilitators are usually either youth development educators or science teachers.

The other learning centers get to choose between two Engineering Design Challenges: either develop a plant growth system to provide food for astronauts on long-term space missions, or design a way to safely slow down spacecraft for a Mars touchdown. Those programs are:

  • Cornell Elementary School
  • Goodman Community Center, Madison
  • Hopkins Lloyd School, Milwaukee
  • Rib Lake Elementary School
  • Sennett Middle School, Madison
  • Spooner Middle School
  • Washington Junior High School, Manitowoc

Facilitators of these programs attended a training last month with NASA and USDE representatives.

In both challenges, students will form small teams. The programs decide how many teams to form and whether to include all their students or a subset.

Students have the opportunity to ask questions of NASA scientists through videoconferencing.

At the end, they will submit videos of their ideas.

A select number of winning teams will present their final ideas over live videostream to NASA experts.

This is the third year Wisconsin has been chosen to participate; in one year, a Wisconsin team from North Crawford School District’s Beyond the Bell Afterschool Program was selected for the final event.

The 21st CCLC program funds centers that primarily serve students of schools with at least 40 percent free and reduced lunch eligibility. 21st CCLCs are before, after, and summer school programs that provide academic enrichment as well as other programming and services.

21st CCLCs around the country and their state leadership worked together to apply for the NASA STEM Challenges.