"The NASA Challenger Center field trip is the highlight of the year for the sixth grade students at Crafton Elementary. One child said he had been waiting since kindergarten to go on this unique ride into space."
Claire Rex
Pennsylvania Science Teacher of the Year


Distance Learning Efforts Earn Honor for Challenger Learning Center


Posted on: Mon Nov 19 2012
The Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University has been honored for its many videoconference-based programs that are reaching students around the world.

The Challenger Learning Center recently received a 2011-2012 Pinnacle Award from the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. The award is presented annually to organizations delivering outstanding K-12, standards-based, interactive videoconferencing programs.

To qualify for the award, Challenger had to receive a minimum 2.85 average score out of a possible 3.0 on evaluations from educators during the school year. The evaluation assessed seven areas related to the effectiveness of the presenter and the educational content of the program.

Established in 1994, the nonprofit Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration specializes in the use of videoconferencing for live interactive content and professional development as well as web-based collaborative learning environments for K-20 education.

Challenger's innovative distance learning program, called e-Missions™, links the Wheeling facility to classrooms anywhere in the world. Each of the 11 e-Missions provides teachers with an all-inclusive curriculum package comprised of teacher training and support, online lesson plans and materials aligned with standards, and technical support. The e-Mission culminates with a live event. In these videoconference simulations students connect with a flight director at the center and use their problem solving, math, and science abilities to work their way through a scenario fraught with crises. Each year more than 750 video connections are made to classrooms around the world. Challenger missions have been flown in 15 countries.

Another distance learning program developed and being pilot tested at the Challenger Learning Center is e-Labs. Funded by a $156,000 grant over two years from the Benedum Foundation, e-Labs are a series of 12 virtual, interactive lessons in various science subjects. During these one-hour videoconferences students connect with trained facilitators dressed in lab coats and linked live from a science lab at the Challenger Learning Center.

"Students work together, using the scientific method to predict and explain outcomes in lab experiments and demonstrations," said Kathleen Frank, assistant director of the Challenger Learning Center and head of the e-Missions program. "This engaging learning method helps deepen students' understanding and encourages their natural curiosity in science. We hope we're inspiring these students to become lifelong learners."

The Challenger Learning Center is one of 48 centers worldwide established by the Challenger Center for Space Science in memory of the space shuttle Challenger. More than 30,000 students fly missions each year either at the Wheeling facility or through distance learning. The center has been honored nine years at the annual national awards conference in three categories: Most Students Served, Most Missions Flown, and Most Teachers Trained.



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