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Make Way for Micronauts

Young Micronauts Learn with NASAYoung Micronauts Learn with NASA

There are 45 Challenger Learning Centers across the United States, and three more overseas. The centers, geared to students in grades 5 to 8, use space-mission simulators and interactive exhibitions to make science, technology, and math fun for students. They’re run by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, which was founded by the families of the seven astronauts — including teacher Christa McAuliffe — killed when the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded minutes after takeoff in January 1986. NASA has been an enthusiastic supporter of the centers. Now, the organization is readying its 49th center, and this one has a twist — it will be aimed at students in kindergarten to second grade, or Micronauts. It opens next spring at Wheeling Jesuit University’s Center for Educational Technology in West Virginia, according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

The Wheeling center will feature a planetarium, where the kids can take a thrilling, virtual ride into outer space to the International Space Station (ISS). They’ll also visit a mock ISS crammed with fun, hands-on activities, the broadcaster says. There is, for instance, a nutrition station where students plan three squares a day for the astronauts, and a Rock Tumbler, a robot that explains how gravity works. Each exhibit requires  students to work in teams to meet an objective. Assistant Director Annie Morgan says that the center “brings science alive to the younger students.”

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