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Students visit Challenger Learning Center

students working at Challenger Learning Center

Imagine the opportunity to work together with your fellow students to keep the Mars space crew safe while sending a rover down to the surface of Mars to search for signs of water and life.

That is exactly what Westchester Intermediate fifth graders were able to do thanks to a grant from the Burns Harbor Redevelopment Commission. All the Westchester Intermediate fifth grade classes have an opportunity to experience a simulated space mission Voyage to Mars at the Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana - a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education facility. 

Prior to the visit, teachers work with students to help them understand the theme and topic of their mission and to work on communication, teamwork and problem solving skills. Once students arrive at the Challenger Learning Center, they are partnered up and assigned to teams working at Mission Control and the Space Station. During the mission, students must accomplish specific tasks in order for their mission to be a success. Astronauts on board the space station build space probes, monitor life support functions, conduct experiments on items taken from the surfaces of Mars or the Moon, and plot navigation courses for the spacecraft. Engineers at Mission Control support these endeavors by answering the astronauts’ questions and providing necessary research.

This wonderful opportunity allows students to become engineers, scientists and Mission Control specialists working together as a crew to Rendezvous with a Comet, Voyage to Mars or Return to the Moon. In the simulators, students test their decision-making skills, solve problems and communicate by alternative means during this innovative, space-themed science and math hands-on experience.

This grant from the Commission allows Duneland School students an experience to work together as a team as they try their hand at a day in the life of a scientist, engineer, researcher and more on a simulated space mission. In addition to making learning meaningful and fun, this experience also exposes students to possible study and career choices.