Totally Tallahassee and Beyond: Challenger Learning Center offer STEM education

Posted at 6:50 PM, Mar 07, 2023

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The Challenger Learning Center, a symbol of our nation's continuing support of space exploration, and an affirmation of our faith in the future.

Following the tragedy of the Challenger "Teacher in Space" launch in 1986, families of the Challenger crew vowed to continue the crew's mission by introducing high quality STEM education to students.

The learning center holds an IMAX 3D Theatre and planetarium digital dome. Another one of the center's programs is a space mission simulator where students have the opportunity to simulate being astronauts in space.

Anna Catherine DuPlantis, an eighth grader at Thomas County Middle School, is one of many students that have received the interactive, or "inter-galactive" education in STEM at the center.

"My job was to communicate with the spacecraft," DuPlantis explained, who served as the communications leader and a vital part of a simulated space mission. "I was their only link to communication so my job I felt was really important to the running of it."

Marketing and Communications Manager Kaylee Gross explained one floor is set up to replicate mission control at JPL. The second floor is set up to replicate the International Space Station, giving students and community members the opportunity to experience what the process looks like and consists of.

The challenger space craft had the first teacher, Crista McAuliffe, in space. Her significance and that of the entire crew is not lost on the students, the foundation of the Learning Center serving as their legacy.

The center is not only open to students, but families and community members also, free of charge on weekends.

The Challenger Learning Center opened in 2003, serving as the K through 12 education outreach facility for the FAMU and FSU joint College of Engineering.

The first Challenger Learning Center opened at the Houston Museum of Natural Science back in 1988. There are now over 40 learning centers throughout the world.