Peoria’s Challenger Space Center initiates biosciences program for teachers and students

January 11, 2006

By hammersmith

Bioscience and biotechnology research extends into agriculture, with NASA interested in the best crops to grow in space. All of these efforts are exciting and ambitious. But the question remains as to who will be the next generation of space explorers and scientists. With so much interest in bioscience and biotechnology at the national, state, and local level, the Challenger Space Center in Peoria, AZ is poised to add significantly to the vision of motivating Arizona’s K-12 students to pursue careers in these areas.

The mission of the Center is to inspire, excite, and educate people of all ages about the mysteries and wonders of science, space, and the universe in which we live. And while many local newspaper articles rightfully call for better AIMs test scores, our Center assists teachers in instilling students with skills demonstrating responsible decision making, problem solving, communications, and team work. Today’s students will be the researchers, scientists, and engineers who develop the technology and tools to take us to the outer planets and beyond. These students will also find new cures for cancer and other diseases. They will become the policymakers who regulate the development and use of genetic engineering and nano and biotechnologies. These students will populate the highly skilled workforce required to sustain Arizona in a time of tight national competition for jobs in math, science, engineering, and technology.

Toward this vision, the Center has initiated a program in the biosciences that engages students in inquiry-based curricula. The program also prepares teachers to become more proficient in helping their students to choose a career in science and particularly in bioscience. This effort includes the following elements:

  • Web Site Design. Using a formula developed by our team while at the NASA Classroom of the Future, we will design and prepare engaging grades 4-9 problem based bioscience modules. These standards based modules will provide a venue for students to leam content and workplace skills needed in the workplace. In addition to the students’ modules, the site will feature tips for teachers who are not used to using classroom inquiry, especially problem and project based learning.
  • Teacher Professional Development. The Center’s highly qualified staff has conducted teacher professional development on a national level. This expertise will be tapped as professional development sessions will be offered to Arizona teachers in grades 4-9. These workshops will feature how to implement problem based learning and effectively use bioscience classroom activities. The Center will offer its first bioscience teacher professional development workshop during the summer of 2006. This workshop is the beginning. The program will be expanded in order to provide sustained, long-term professional development. Aligned with state standards, the professional development series will offer continuing education credits toward recertification.
  • Materials Development. In addition to taking advantage of bioscience instructional materials developed by NASA centers, the Center’s team will assemble new materials and develop problem based and standards based modules and activities in grades 4-9. Some of the new materials will feature new simulations catering to bioscience.
  • Outreach. The Center will develop the ability to go out to schools. Members of the Center’s team have been asked to put on bioscience classes throughout the Valley. These programs will be offered as an adjunct to those conducted at the Center.

For more information, contact Bob Myers, Executive Director, Challenger Space Center at 623-322-2001 or by e-mail.