Guest Post: Fanny calls Challenger Challenge Challenging

The Messenger reported yesterday that Missisquoi Valley Union High School students may get “the opportunity to send probes into Jupiter’s atmosphere and look for signs of life in the water beneath the ice on Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa” if the school can get funding for a Challenger Center for Space Science Education.

That is an exceptional opportunity. I hope it can happen but we need much more to make the experience fair and equitable.

Two simulators form the heart of the center, one at NASA and one at the International Space Station. The Learning Center simulators duplicate the mission control experience to give students the same audio and visual information the NASA scientists and engineers use. Students prepare for their missions with curricula designed in conjunction with NASA.

Students also work in teams to solve mission problems such as designing space probes, analyzing data, and calculating the maneuvers and trajectories for their space ship.

The Challenger Center for Space Science Education is an international organization founded by the families of the Space Shuttle astronauts who were killed on mission STS-51-L. Their charge is to kindle an interest and joy in science in young people.There are currently 45 Challenger Learning Centers spread across the United States from Kenai, Alaska, to Hazard, Kentucky, to Wheeling, West Virginia.

A new building to house the center will cost around $3.1 million but the center might use an existing building for a total cost including the simulator office equipment, parking lot expansion, and other expenses of about $1.5 million. The simulator costs $825,000 plus another $10,000 to ship it to Vermont. Gov. Jim Douglas has included the proposal in the state application for federal Race to the Top education funds.

President Obama announced his plans to continue the Race to the Top grant program this year as a part of the Democratic Congress’ G.R.A.F.T. Act spending. Race to the Top winners will develop and showcase school reform concepts or pilot programs and “provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow … that can transform our schools for decades to come.” Overall, $4 billion will be awarded in two Phases with an estimated Range of Awards of $20 million-$700 million. Vermont is in Category 5 and is most likely to receive $20-75 million.

That is an exceptional opportunity for some 1,112 Vermont students at MVU but only one Vermont school can possibly receive this center and that limits the opportunities for the 89,739 other students. That’s bad for the kids and bad for the state.

After all, the Equal Educational Opportunity Act of 1997, known here as “Act 60,” makes “educational opportunity available to each pupil in each town on substantially equal terms, in accordance with the Vermont Constitution and the Vermont supreme court decision of February 5, 1997, Brigham v. State of Vermont.”

Kids in one school district like MVU are restricted from getting anything kids in the other district cannot have.

The State will either have to arrange for a Challenger Learning Center in every school district or forego the Center at MVU.

Nola “Fanny” Guay

Is it even possible that Vermonters would deny a school this specialized occasion to excel, particularly in science and mathematics? See the Liberislam series for Dick’s response.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: Fanny calls Challenger Challenge Challenging

  1. Ms. Guay is miss informed. The Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Vt was proposed for the Franklin County area because the people who have gotten this initiative off the ground have been MVU science teachers. This science center will serve students for a 100 mile radius of the Swanton area. This includes Chittenden County, Vt, Montreal, PO Qeb, and upper state NY . All Challenger Learning Centers are given a territory by the National Headquarters so that there will be success in the operation of such centers. So no centers can be built within a 100 radius of each other. This center is an opportunity which is fair to all school children for all Northern Vt, Northern Ny and Southern Quebec. The CLC will serve all children and adults, not just the students of MVU. What we really need is a grassroots movement to bring the CLC to Franklin County not a movement to discourage it based on miss information. Our committee meets next on April 1 in the MVu library. All are welcome to come and learn the facts regarding our plans for the CLC in Franklin County.

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