Richland County School District One students have access to many unique educational experiences. A prime example of this is Richland One’s Challenger Learning Center (“CLC”) for space science education – the only one of its kind in South Carolina.
The CLC opened in Columbia in February of 1996, and is dedicated to the heroes of the Space Shuttle Challenger 51-L crew, who perished on January 28, 1986. This aerospace-themed academic program gives students the opportunity to improve skills through interactive learning experiences, and combine their school’s science and math curricula with CLC’s information and technology. The CLC uses space-themed simulations, scenarios, and activities to create learning environments and engage students. These experiences strengthen students’ knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects and may inspire them to pursue careers in these important fields. At the same time, students develop skills in decision making, collaboration, problem solving, and communication, which will help them to be successful in any field. Sponsor organizations like NASA and NOAA provide the latest and most relevant science to the CLC, and have partnered with the Center in its mission, “to create a scientifically literate population with the skills needed for success in the 21st century.”
A Challenger Learning Center mission is so much more than a field trip! School groups can register for Missions at the Center such as Return to the Moon, Rendezvous with a Comet and Voyage to Mars, and participate in learning experiences that are based on simulations used by NASA to prepare astronauts for space. The CLC also houses the James E. Clyburn Aerospace Education Laboratory (“AEL”). This flight training department offers programs that are adapted from actual aviation training and are conducted by a Certified Flight Instructor. While there, visitors can view multimedia presentations and flight demonstrations, then try their hand at piloting by practicing on one of AEL’s Flight Simulators. Challenger also offers Hands-On Science and e-Planetarium programs for students in various grades. In the summer, the CLC holds Summer Camps for interested kids. This year’s offerings included Astronaut Academy, Rocket Camp, Robotics Camp, Arduino Camp, Fischertechnik Camp, and RC Pilot Camp.
Wade McGuinn, CEO of McGuinn Hybrid Homes, thinks students within the Richland One District are very fortunate to have the CLC. His Burnside Farms community of homes is zoned for Richland One. “School-age children have a leg up with this unique and exceptional science program. By giving them these tools to further their education, it’s another way of telling our kids that they can do anything they set their minds to.”