Space Projects Extend STEM Learning Through Summer

Boys & Girls Clubs are encouraging students to try out space-related STEM activities before July 20, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and first moon landing. Those might include analyzing space data and uploading findings to NASA or performing an experiment on tomato seeds — some that have flown in space.

The project is a joint effort of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Raytheon with the goal of maintaining kids' interests in science, technology, engineering and math during the time of the year when they're "most at risk of falling behind," said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in a statement.

The "JFK Space Labs Explorers Challenge," as it's named, hopes to entice kids and staff to take part in a variety of biology and Earth science experiments, like those performed on the International Space Station (ISS). The program is intended to complement other summer STEM activities being run by Boys & Girls Clubs, and those that participate have the chance to win prizes. To be eligible, Clubs must perform one or more of the following activities by the July deadline:

  • Orion's Quest: These virtual missions ask Club members to analyze photo or video data "downlinked" from the ISS and submit their findings to scientists;
  • Tomatosphere: An educator helps Club members plan, perform and submit a "blind test" experiment to compare the growth rates of two groups of tomato seeds — one set that flew in space and another that remained on Earth;
  • Sally Ride EarthKam: Club members control the camera in an Earth observation experiment onboard the ISS; and
  • Windows on Earth: In this 30-minute activity, Club members use special software to view photos of Earth taken by astronauts on the ISS to identify "mystery" images or interact with the pictures in other ways.
JFK Space Labs Explorers Challenge

All of the activities except Windows on Earth take about 10 hours of program time. The digital materials needed to participate are all freely available online.

Boys & Girls Clubs can register for the challenge on the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.