Report from Headquarters

Space Foundation Teaming with Local School District to Create Space-Focused Middle School

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Space Foundation Teaming with Local School District to Create Space-Focused Middle School The Space Foundation is teaming with Colorado School District 11 (D-11) in its hometown of Colorado Springs to revitalize a failing middle-school by transforming it into an aerospace academy. The new school, which is named Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy in honor of former astronaut and Colorado native John L. “Jack” Swigert, will open this fall with a space-related curriculum designed to drive proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

The Space Foundation, which is relocating its Education Department to the Academy campus, is developing the curriculum and, once the school is up and running, will provide a broad range of support services, including:

  • Delivering on-site space-related education programs for students and teachers;
  • Providing opportunities for students and teachers to participate in Space Foundation programs that bring space industry leaders and leading-edge technologies to the Colorado Springs area;
  • Providing enhanced professional development for Swigert Aerospace Academy teachers;
  • Creating state-of-the-art teaching facilities and equipment; and
  • Developing an on-site National STEM Teacher Training Center that will serve the entire district as well as bring in educators from throughout the country.

“This partnership exemplifies all that we seek to provide to students. Curriculum will be project-based and interdisciplinary and will include tech tools that bring out students’ creativity,” said Mike Poore, District 11 deputy superintendent, Educational Support Services. “Additionally, D-11 students will benefit from having leading experts in space education interacting at the Swigert Aerospace Academy on a daily basis.”

Student Programs
Among the student programs provided at the new space school will be a customized version of the Space Foundation’s Science, Technology, and Academic Readiness for Space (STARS) curriculum. STARS includes 90 minutes of Space Foundation-provided instruction each week as well as follow-up classroom activities on topics such as rocketry principles, astronomy, earth systems science, and principles of flight. Students may also have opportunities to attend education sessions at the National Space Symposium and to interact with government and industry space leaders.

Teacher Programs
The Space Foundation will ensure that teachers have the skills to provide space-related instruction in the classroom through a series of in-service, professional development, and training programs. The Space Foundation will also conduct its Colorado Springs Space Discovery Institutes at the Swigert Aerospace Academy beginning in 2010. These intensive week-long classes provide ready-to-use space-related STEM lesson and activity plans and can be applied toward master’s degrees in a variety of science and space studies specialty areas.

Teaching Facilities and Equipment
The Swigert Aerospace Academy will house three learning labs to enhance classroom learning opportunities:

  • The Mission Control Lab, which will open during the second semester, will simulate launch, flight and landing of a plethora of satellite space missions.
  • The Planetary Rover Lab, which will open during the 2010-2011 school year, will include construction of a simulated Martian terrain to be used for robotics missions using student-designed-and-built robots.
  • The Science on a Sphere (SoS) Lab, which will be built if adequate philanthropic support can be secured, will house a room-sized global display system that uses computers and video projectors to display planetary and solar system data and images onto a six-foot-diameter sphere. Developed by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), SoS can illustrate many compelling images, including atmospheric storms, climate change trends, ocean temperatures, and celestial bodies.

Although primarily for use within the Swigert Aerospace Academy, the labs can also host classes from other schools within the district and students from other districts, providing additional financial resources for the school.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to demonstrate what the Space Foundation has known for years: relating math, science, and technology education to the enthralling mysteries of space is a powerful teaching tool,” said Elliot Pulham, chief executive officer of the Space Foundation. “Children learn better, retain more and are more inclined to pursue higher levels of technical education when they participate in hands-on space-related learning activities.

“The Space Foundation was founded in honor of Jack Swigert,” said Pulham. “So we are thrilled that the District has chosen to name the school in his honor,”

Photo: Space Foundation and D-11 formally signed the agreement to create the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy on June 10, 2009.  Shown here at the contract signing are: seated, left, Kris Odom, D-11 executive director of procurement and contracting, and, right, Chuck Zimkas, Space Foundation chief operating officer; standing, left, Iain Probert, Space Foundation vice president of education, and, right, Larry Bartel, principal of the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy.

This article is part of Space Watch: July 2009 (Volume: 8, Issue: 7).