Heritage in Flight Museum sponsors West Lincoln-Broadwell entrance to virtual space

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[April 09, 2021]  The Heritage in Flight Museum has been sponsoring the fifth and sixth grade science and math classes at West Lincoln Broadwell School attendance to the Challenger Learning Center (CLC) for many years.

It has always been an exciting day for the students with hands on lessons in space travel while working through assignments together in the realistic space station and mission control. The center is located on the campus of Heartland Community College in Normal.

Science teacher Barb Bowlby and math instructor Val Mammen have led these adventures, thoroughly preparing the students weeks before traveling to Normal. The Heritage in Flight Museum (HIF) has always been just as excited as the teachers and students to support this day of aviation related exploration.

Due to the pandemic all in-person classes had to be cancelled at the CLC this past year. However, smart thinkers that they are, a new plan was made to recreate the unique and challenging exploration.

Via Zoom the imaginative staff at the Challenger Learning Center designed a new way for students to experience a day of space flight that could be completed in school rooms.

West Lincoln Broadwell teachers Mrs. Bowlby and Mrs. Mammen contacted Heritage in Flight to see if the museum would be willing to sponsor a virtual trip. The answer from HIF was an emphatic “Yes.”

The Challenger Learning Center offers two virtual missions, one called Europa Encounter, and the second is a STEM EDventure called Vacation to Space. Europa Encounter is a one-time one-hour class, while Vacation to Space is a much more ambitious three week course. WLB choose to sign up for both programs.

The Europa Encounter is a one hour mission to discover if Europa, a moon orbiting Jupiter, might sustain life. The moon has an icy shell with liquid water beneath. The mission was to send a probe to the planet’s surface and drill down for a sample of the liquid center, to see if it contained the chemistry of life.

“We had to do a pre-mission briefing the day before the actual operation to study how to get the probe to the surface and then study the chemistry of the water. The day of the mission each of the twenty-one fifth grade students had an assignment to accomplish. Commander Libby at the Challenger Learning Center in Normal could watch the entire class go through their paces. It was terrific,” said Barb Bowlby. “The day after the mission was set aside for studying the data to determine if life could exist,” she added.

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The second CLC virtual mission ‘Vacation in Space’ was much more involved, lasting three weeks with a one hour dedicated class each week for the fifteen sixth grade students. Each week had a specific task.

“I was really impressed by the planning that went into each lesson. The CLC sent a box containing all of the items the students would need to accomplish the lesson, and each student’s name was on an individual container. It was really well done, a lot of thought went into the mission,” said Barb. The students had to learn about distances in space, rocketry, astronomy, aerodynamics, and problem solving.

Commander Libby at the Challenger Learning Center monitored every moment of each lesson. The students created rockets to carry them to their vacation destination, gliders to get them to the surface of their chosen planet, a rover to travel around on the surface, and a helicopter for travel far afield. Many of these items were constructed by the students in the classroom.

“I was really happy that our students were able to experience a Challenger Learning Center mission. The older students at West Lincoln Broadwell actually got to travel to the CLC in Normal to do an in person mission in previous years before the pandemic, Rendezvous with a Comet and Mission to Mars,” said Mrs. Bowlby. “I was really pleased and impressed with the content, organization, and communication of these virtual missions. The amount of content was impressive. I had to learn a lot to teach these missions,” she said with a laugh. “I was also impressed with the students’ understanding of technology,” she added.

“I am very appreciative once again for the dedication of the Heritage in Fight Museum to our Challenger Learning Center missions. They have contributed to our students’ development for five years now. It is an awesome organization,” said Barbara Bowlby.

“The Heritage in Flight Museum would like to thank West Lincoln Broadwell School, Barb Bowlby and Val Mammen for allowing us to be part of their commitment to the education of their students,” said HIF President Rick Kidd. “The Heritage in Flight Museum has been located at the Logan County Airport since 1985. It is focused on the preservation of aviation history, respect for our veterans, and education of the next generation of American leaders,” he said.

[Curtis Fox]


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