Hands-on learning: Museum to incorporate new programs

A number of new educational events are to be offered to the community in the new year at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum, the director says.

Armstrong Air & Space Museum Director Chris Burton and the museum’s board are preparing their schedule for 2012, and both the museum director and educational specialist are preparing the details for the upcoming events.

Burton said that they have familiar happenings along with new opportunities to offer this year for the public.

From Friday to Feb. 1, a NASA Remembrance Week is scheduled.

“During this time we will honor the 17 fallen astronauts with memorials,” Burton said.

On Jan. 27, 1967, America lost three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire. On Jan. 28, 1986, seven astronauts were lost shortly after the liftoff of the Shuttle Challenger and on Feb. 1, 2003, the seven member crew of the Shuttle Columbia was lost upon reentry.

President’s Day will be observed with special activities and trivia involving presidents.

New this year is a special “Leap Day” program that will be held on Feb. 29. During this day, the adults can discuss the calendar, how it takes the Earth more than 364 days to go around the sun and the purpose of leap day, and the children can enjoy special “leap” activities, involving high jump and long jump.

On March 24, the museum staff intends to host a “Quiz Bowl” which is brand new this year.

“We will be hosting matches in the museum, and there will be general trivia questions, but will have a large number of space and aviation questions than normal,” Burton said.

Area high schools will be involved in this trivia tournament.

Along with the Quiz Bowl, the museum plans to incorporate new educational activities geared toward school-aged students.

“We have so many educational programs and we are working to expand,” Armstrong Air and Space Museum Educational Specialist Maria Vega said. “We have a lot of amazing outreach programs with the schools.”

Currently, museum staff is working with students in kindergarten through sixth grade on the Young Astronaut Program (YAP).

This program lasts the duration of the school year, and at the end of the program the students will participate in a rocket launch to conclude their lessons.

Vega said that students are welcome to attend and the fee is $25.

Another program being incorporated into the schools this year is the S.T.E.M. Program, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

This program, which started at the beginning of the school year, challenges Wapakoneta Middle School students in the subject areas of science, engineering and math.

“We want to prepare them for college,” Vega said. “Our job is to get them interested and to get them to learn.”

This program is comprised of approximately 40 students who meet with Vega every other Friday to problem solve.

Currently, the students are working on building a car, using only straws, tape and index cards.

Engineers from Honda, in Anna, are also participating in this program by helping to teach the students about engineering, problem solving, budgeting, testing out their model and redesigning.

“I love hands-on activities,” Vega said. “That is how we grow engineers and scientists.”

Another educational event that the museum is beginning to offer is the Enrichment Program, which was first introduced into Botkins Local School, and will be expanding to other schools in Shelby County.

This program is focused on third-graders that are selected by the school, who pretend to be space explorers in a new colony.

“They learn about resources and mathematical figuring,” Vega said.

Since the program attracted students from Botkins Local Schools, museum programming has been opened to other schools and will be broken down into a nine-week program.

Staff from the museum plan to visit two to three schools, at a time, once a week and work with the third-graders for nine weeks at their schools.

“We had 20 students in it at Botkins, and it was a big hit,” Vega said.

The Shelby County Educational Service Center ordered a grant to fund this program for the Shelby County schools.

In addition to working with area schools, Vega said that the museum has purchased kits and simulations, where things can be built and explored.

Community outreach is a goal for the museum this year, and Vega hopes that children and adults alike will get involved in all that the museum has to offer.

“We are working on our Astronomy Program,” Vega said, “where we get the telescopes out and do a lot more sky watching and observatory, especially when there is a meteor shower.”