The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) recently announced that 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).  One of those selected was at the Spooner Middle School.

According to DPI, the 10 Wisconsin programs are all federally funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC). The challenges are funded by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) in partnership with NASA.

Of the 10 Wisconsin programs chosen, 3 were selected for a new pilot program, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Earth (GLOBE), while the other 7 learning centers, including SMS, 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.

One of the teachers involved in this program, SMS science and math teacher Amy Young, tells us that they are very excited to have the opportunity work through this club with the students.

"As science educators, giving our students the chance to network with a NASA scientist and put their engineering design skills into practice is a phenomenal opportunity," Young said. "Here at Spooner Middle School, we have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards and there is a great deal of skill that needs to be developed in working through the engineering process. As our students learn about the steps involved, we hope that they will be able to apply these skills to other core areas like English Language Arts, Social Studies, Math...all areas. Generating and comparing possible solutions to problems can be applied to a lot of different parts of their lives. Working with criteria and constraints are real-world skills that kids need and planning and constructing tests that offer data to support their opinions will help them throughout their school careers. These are all academic standards included in our science curriculum."

Students also have the opportunity to ask questions of NASA scientists through video conferencing.

"Thanks to the 21st Century CLC grant and the people that work on it here at SASD, the NASA club, and Parachuting to Mars Activity really lets our students ask questions on a real-world scale! Students will get to plan, create, test, & improve their parachute designs; they even get feedback from a scientist with NASA.  Our kids are excited and so are we!", Young says.

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

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