The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky
The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky (CLCKY) is an exciting education venue located in the under-served Appalachian region of south-eastern Kentucky. Our mission is to inspire and promote creativity in K-12 students of the region by partnering with their schools to provide hands-on, interactive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs that supplement classroom learning and apply technical concepts in a real-world environment.
The CLCKY strives to facilitate and motivate classroom teachers by providing professional development, curriculum guides, and pre-visit orientations, all in compliance with the Kentucky Learning Goals & Academic Expectations and the National Standards.
As a community outreach we provide a unique opportunity for additional education and team building for parents and businesses in south-eastern Kentucky through a variety of activities at the center.
As important as our mission is our vision which is to guide our students to discover and achieve their full potential in the STEM fields and encourage them to pursue higher education amid the vast array of opportunities that are available to them.
The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky Story
In the spring of 1996, former Hazard High School Home Economics teacher Alice Noble visited a Challenger Learning Center in Brownsburg, Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis. She immediately knew that the progressive leaders in her hometown would love the Challenger Learning Center concept to get kids excited about learning science, mathematics, and technology and would jump at the opportunity to locate one in Hazard. She was right! By September of 1996, Hazard, Kentucky was the first rural site ever to be approved by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education for a Challenger Learning Center.
The Challenger Center for Space Science Education was created in response to the grief and tragedy of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in which seven Americans lost their lives, including Christa McAuliffe, who was to be the first "teacher in space". The Challenger Crew had set out on a mission to broaden educational horizons and promote the advancement of scientific knowledge. So, the family members of these astronauts decided to do something positive that would continue their mission. They resolved to create a living memorial to the Challenger crew—the world’s first interactive space science education center where teachers and their students could use state-of-the-art technology and space simulations to explore space themselves. The first Challenger Learning Center opened a few months later in Houston, Texas. Since then, approximately 50 other Challenger Learning Centers have opened across the United States, Canada, and England. The Challenger Learning Center of Kentucky in Hazard opened in 1999 and was the 34th Center in operation.
Challenger Learning Centers use space exploration as a tool to excite and inspire students to learn science, mathematics, and technology. They become participants in a NASA team of scientists, engineers and technicians, all critical components of completing a successful space mission. A one-day teacher professional development session and a "mission prep" classroom component, which is aligned with KY and National science and mathematics standards, are key to a successful mission. The culminating event occurs when the students visit the Challenger Learning Center where they apply the skills they have learned in the classroom in either our "Mission Control" simulator or in our "Space Station simulator. These simulators look and feel like NASA machinery and are equipped with research computers, robots, remote glove boxes, NASA star charts, video cameras and monitors. Student astronauts and mission controllers have to communicate and work together as a team to successfully complete their 2-hour mission.
Challenger Learning Centers goals are:
- To increase student interest in and enthusiasm for the sciences, mathematics, and technology;
- To improve students’ knowledge and problem-solving skills in these fields; and
- To teach students to work in teams and think critically.