New center to teach that sky's no limit

January 29, 1995|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,Sun Staff Writer

Middle-school students will launch probes and travel to the moon on simulated space missions when a $1 million Challenger Space Center opens in the county at the end of next year.

Named after the space shuttle that exploded in 1986, killing all seven crew members, the new center will take students on lifelike journeys through space while honing their math and science skills.

The Challenger Center for Space Science and Leadership Anne Arundel, a locally formed group of sponsors, announced plans for the center at a breakfast meeting Friday in Annapolis. Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of the Challenger disaster.

The county is an ideal site for a center because "it's a community whose lifeblood is steeped in history and whose vision is pointed toward the future," said Richard Methia, vice president of educational programs for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, the national organization.

Jane Smith Wolcott, who flew in for the announcement, said she would have a special connection to the Arundel center because her husband, Michael Smith, who piloted the Challenger, graduated from the Naval Academy.

"This [Annapolis] was Mike's home for four years," she said. "The Naval Academy was part of his life."

The first Challenger center was founded in Houston eight years ago by the families of the Challenger crew. Today, there are 25 centers nationwide, including the Howard B. Owens Science Center in Greenbelt and the Challenger Research, Development and Training Center in Washington. Most are in museums or schools.

A committee, chaired by Annapolis City Administrator Michael D. Mallinoff, will announce the location of the county center by early spring. About 10 sites are being considered, including ones at Baltimore Washington International Airport, Bates Middle School, Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and surplus land near Fort Meade.

The center will be financed completely by the community and private sector through fund-raisers. It is estimated the center will require an annual operating budget of $120,000.

Challenger space centers encourage students to stretch their imaginations and develop strong math and science skills, sponsors say.

"It prepares them for the future work force and creates a positive vision for their future," said Mr. Methia. "It gives them a window to the future and makes them feel good about themselves."

The one-day space missions are led by teachers, who go through a one-day training session, and space center staff. Students spend the week before their mission polishing their space knowledge.

On the day of their mission, students are divided into teams and assigned duties. While the curriculum may differ from center to center, all locations launch a probe to the fictional Comet Haley.

Students also may create a prototype for habitat on Mars.

Windsor Farm Elementary School students visited the Washington center last year.

"It was just like a real space shuttle," said Maeve Royce, a fifth-grader.

Kris Almgren, 10, agreed.

"It felt real. They didn't treat us like kids. They treated us like adults," the fifth-grader said. "If we had a question, they only gave us half the answer and made us figure the rest on our own."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.