Families and their excited children filled the Challenger Learning Center Saturday to experience Earth, Sea & Sky Day, a fun day filled with activities to help kids of all ages engage with scientific principles that play out in our everyday lives. The annual event has evolved in its three years from an Earth Day celebration, to an Astronomy Day celebration, until it evolved into its current form combing and celebrating both.
“Astronomy Day is April 21st and Earth Day is April 22nd, so why not celebrate our skies and celebrate our earth at the same time?” said Lara Bates, Community Relations Specialist/Flight Director for the Challenger Learning Center.
Located in Hammond, the Challenger Learning Center served up ample opportunities for hands-on learning with volunteers to help guide the way. At one table, children enthusiastically tested their knowledge of the importance of recycling. The volunteer at the recycling table was impressed by how much the kids already know about recycling, noting that it’s being well-taught in schools. That same sentiment was shared throughout the event as kids and their families learned more about different areas of science.
“This is a chance for kids to literally ‘dig in,’” Bates said. “We have an indoor compost bin so kids can use microscopes to look at red wriggler worms and learn about how worms eat our garbage and how to reduce our footprint.”
Phil Martin, a retired employee of ArcelorMittal R&D, brought his grandson to the annual event to continue their tradition of learning about science.
“We came last year and saw how nice it was, so we came back,” Martin said. Martin’s grandson, Michael, loves science and wants to become an astronaut. He plans to come back every year, because - even though already he knows a lot about space, he is ready to learn more in order to reach his goal.
Erica Wolak of Highland brought her daughter, Addison, back for the second year also.
“I wish it was open more than once a year, so we’re going to make this a yearly thing because she really likes coming,” Wolak said. “Last year she talked about it for days after; she’s been so excited all morning.”
“Ninety percent of what we do here is scheduled programs and field trips,” Bates said. “Thank goodness for ArcelorMittal, who sponsors this event each year, because it allows us to open up our facility to the public.”
Rebecca Manis, Executive Director at the Challenger Learning Center, said that sponsorship and partnership have been key to expanding the event.
“This is the first year that we’ve actually had partners. The Dunes Learning Center is here, and the Coffee Creek Watershed is helping us out as well. We’re able to give more to it: more staff time, more activities, and invest in some cool things that’ll be fun for families.” Manis said.
Goals are reached milestone by milestone, and the staff of the Challenger Learning Center sees Earth Sea & Sky Day as an important step in reaching the ultimate goal: inspiring young students to pursue science.
“We’re really trying to grow as not just a school field trip destination, but as a public place for parents to bring their kids, and this is part of that effort,” Manis said, “Even using space as the hook – there’s a lot of cool science out there and it keeps us all going here on Spaceship Earth.”
For more information about the Challenger Learning Center, please visit http://www.clcnwi.com/.