At Challenger, groups of students simulate a mission to Mars from the planet’s moon Phobos. They have to solve problems such as dodging an asteroid. They complete activities focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
When they return to their regular classroom, they complete follow-up activities, says Keely Krueger, assistant superintendent for early childhood and elementary education. They learn about communication, collaboration and problem-solving — skills that transcend multiple disciplines, she says.
“They’re learning that through the mission control and expedition to Mars experience. They’re also learning those skills when they’re on the STEM side of things, when they’re doing the International Space Station and biomimicry in the other programs that we brought into the STEM side of the day,” she says.
The activities tie in lessons students are completing in other classes, such as math and reading. The simulation helps them make real-world connections to the other instruction. It “brings all of those pieces together, it makes their learning more meaningful,” says George Oslovich, Woodstock’s technology director.
The idea is that students don’t just complete tasks, Oslovich says. Instead, students should realize “the task is an end result to what I’m learning, and I will have to retain that forever.
“Challenger tries to make that happen.”
Building a World of Learning From the Ground Up
The Woodstock district acquired the Challenger Learning Center from Aurora University in 2019. Woodstock officials had to move quickly to get the space, and its new