Wallops Earns Grant, Plans to Develop STEM Programs
New programs, new initiatives and a new Kids Zone are all new upgrades NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center will be making.
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center was recently awarded a $604,000 grant to implement a new STEM in Action project to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs and upgrades to the Visitor Center.
According to Wallops, the STEM in Action project is a collaboration among the NASA Wallops Flight Facility Visitor Center, Wallops Education Team, Virginia Space Flight Academy, and the Delmarva Space Sciences Foundation. The project serves to increase and sustain youth and public engagement in STEM by linking formal learning in the school and informal learning in the NASA Visitor Center environment.
According to Rebecca Hudson, community relations lead and public affairs specialist for Wallops, the grant will specifically go towards developing a new STEM Kids Zone, developing STEM programs for kindergarten through 8th grade students, conducting professional development for local educators and enhancing outdoor classrooms.
“This is an outstanding opportunity for Wallops to reach local students and educators. We are incredibly excited to share our missions with the public through these unique opportunities. This is truly a great chance for us to share our message and we look forward to doing so.”
The STEM Kids Zone will transform a 920-square-foot area into a free play, hands-on workshop environment space dedicated to nurturing informal learning opportunities that are STEM-focused.
“We’re very excited about the Kids Zone as it will transform an existing area of the Visitor Center into a free play, hands-on space for students to learn STEM related concepts,” Hudson says.
Additional enhancements to the Outdoor Classroom will include a hands-on rocket garden, weather station with real time data, as well as launch viewing enhancements of countdown clock, interpretive panels, and additional elevated seating, which would extend the informal learning experience from the indoors to the Visitors Center grounds.
Further programs under development include Astronomy, Heliophysics, Engineering and Earth Science environments grounded in Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Standards of Learning (SOL) to provide high-quality STEM experiences for underrepresented and underserved students and the educators who work in these environments.
Hudson says the grant is very competitive and there were numerous applicants across the country. The stipulations for this grant were to create interactive exhibits, professional development activities and community-based programs to engaged students, teachers, and the public in NASA-themed STEM and to help encourage students to pursue STEM-related careers.
“We were surprised and excited to receive the award notification. This will be a game-changer for the Wallops Visitor Center and for the educational programming done at Wallops Flight Facility. I believe our guests will be excited to see the new space when completed and we can’t wait for our youngest guests to see the new area designed especially for them.”
The Wallops Visitor Center will collaborate with NASA’s Museum Alliance, a nationwide network of informal education professionals at more than 700 science museums, planetariums, Challenger Centers, youth-serving organizations, camps, libraries, nature centers, aquariums, zoos and visitor centers at NASA facilities, observatories and parks. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created and manages the Museum Alliance for the agency.
To learn more about NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, visit www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/home.