Image that reads Center for Educational Technologies. This image links to the Center for Educational Technologies home page.

Center for Educational Technologies projects have ended (except Challenger Learning Center) and are no longer funded.

Micronauts Ready to Blast Off!

Mon Aug 8 2011

How do astronauts get into outer space? Do they travel in a rocket ship or a space shuttle? How long does it take to get to the Moon? The Challenger Learning Center now invites the youngest explorers to unlock the mysteries of space.

Micronauts, the new interactive space program for the youngest students, is ready to blast off! The Challenger Learning Center developed the kid-sized simulated space mission and encourages teachers and other childcare leaders to sign up now for this latest space adventure.

"Micronauts has been in the works for over a year, and it's ready to welcome youngsters," said Jackie Shia, director of the Challenger Learning Center. "It's perfect for students in kindergarten through third grades. They'll have a chance to fly a simulated space mission and conduct scientific experiments."

Shia and her staff are excited to share space with this new audience of learners.

There are 48 Challenger Learning Centers worldwide that invite students in grades 5-12 to fly simulated space missions and learn more about math and science. The centers are named in honor of the seven members of the STS-51-L mission crew, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe, who died in the space shuttle Challenger tragedy 25 years ago. More than 30,000 students fly missions each year at the Wheeling facility, either on site or through distance learning missions. The distance missions have reached children in 14 countries.

"Christa's dream was to teach from space, and this is all part of Christa's dream to continue teaching students about space and science. So we are really excited to now reach all students from kindergarten to middle school and excite them about science and math careers," said Shia. Her center is the only one with a separate exploratorium.

Micronauts transports students from planet Earth to the International Space Station. Traveling 230 miles above Earth's surface, students conduct hands-on activities at various learning centers. Each of these 11 centers is designed to target key critical thinking skills through the exploration and discovery of basic science, mathematics, and language arts concepts.

The trip is a one-hour simulation, and students rotate through stations working as scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Students begin their space trip in an inflatable planetarium as they watch a short show designed to fuel their imagination. At the nutrition station, for example, students learn the importance of proper, balanced diets as they devise a menu for two astronauts that meets the USDA Food Guide Pyramid guidelines. They experience the thrills, and sometimes frustration, of having to use robotic arms to manipulate rocks for further study. Students work in an underwater glovebox to simulate the training that astronauts must undergo as they prepare for a gravity-free environment in space.

Best of all, Micronauts is colorful, hands-on fun.

The Micronauts program is available in a choice of two program packages, each involving hands-on, investigative venues called exploratory activities and a simulated Micronauts mission to the International Space Station:
  • The two-hour program includes the Micronauts mission and one exploratory activity for up to 50 students. Students will be divided into two groups of 25.
  • The three-hour program includes the Micronauts mission and two exploratory activities for up to 75 students. Students will be divided into three groups of 25.
The Challenger Learning Center is now booking missions for Micronauts and invites any interested educator to call Barbara Crawshaw at 304-243-8740 or e-mail