WASHINGTON — Challenger Center for Space Science Education (Challenger Center) and its network of more than 40 Challenger Learning Centers around the globe is commemorating the anniversary of the Challenger tragedy as the organization continues its work to inspire, engage, and educate students around the world.

The nonprofit organization was formed as a living tribute to the seven crew members lost on Jan. 28, 1986.

A wreath is placed at the Onizuka Memorial in Little Tokyo on Tuesday, the 28th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
A wreath is placed at the Onizuka Memorial in Little Tokyo on Tuesday, the 28th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

“Today and every day, we remember our loved ones for their heroic efforts to not only inspire students, but to make a difference in all of our lives,” said Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chair of Challenger Center and widow of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee. “As I look back over the years, I’m filled with pride and gratitude for the support we received from people around the world. But it’s looking forward that excites me the most. The momentum continues to grow, and I’m so very eager to see what the future has in store for Challenger Center.”

The seven crew members of shuttle flight STS-51-L — Scobee, Gregory Jarvis, Christa McAuliffe (selected by NASA to be the first teacher in space), Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, and Michael J. Smith — were part of the first Teacher in Space Project. The NASA program, announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, was designed to inspire students, honor teachers, and spur interest in mathematics, science and space exploration.

Challenger Center staff placed a wreath at the memorial located in Arlington National Cemetery. In addition, several Challenger Learning Centers had plans to commemorate the anniversary on Tuesday:

– Challenger Learning Center of Maine (Bangor) had 28 seconds of silence at 11:39 a.m. Joining the board and staff members were local students and teachers.

– Challenger Learning Center of Colorado (Colorado Springs) broadcast a campus-wide interview about the Challenger mission and the ways in which Challenger Center carries on those goals to the local namesake school, Challenger Middle School.

– Christa McAuliffe Challenger Learning Center (Framingham, Mass.) welcomed Massachusetts State Rep. Tom Sannicandro and Massachusetts Secretary of Education Matthew Malone to commemorate the day.

– Challenger Center Hawaii, Barbers Point Elementary School ( Kapolei) welcomed Claude Onizuka, brother of Ellison Onizuka, and Astronaut Rex Walheim. Walheim spoke to 60 sixth-graders before the students participated in their mission.

– Challenger Learning Center at Paducah (Paducah, Ky.) provided each student with a Challenger Learning Center button to wear in honor of the crew. The crew will be highlighted in a newsletter distributed to each student visiting the center.

– Challenger Learning Center of Northern Nevada (Reno) opened its doors to local leaders and community members. This was the first opportunity for leaders, partners and potential donors to see the center as construction continues to progress. The center is scheduled to open later this year.

– Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center (San Antonio, Texas) hosted a time of remembrance with Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, who spoke about her life-long mission to foster a new generation of star challengers. The center is scheduled to open later this year.

– Challenger Learning Center St. Louis students created a commemorative mural that will be displayed throughout the week.

– Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee launched rockets with third grade students at a local elementary school.

– Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University (Wheeling, W.Va.) recognized the crew during a noon mass on campus.

– Challenger Learning Center for Science & Technology (Woodstock, Ill.) students released seven helium balloons with each astronaut’s name. The center will also hold an additional ceremony on Jan. 31 in conjunction with NASA’s Day of Remembrance, which also honors the astronauts lost on Apollo 1 (Jan. 27, 1967) and the shuttle Columbia (Feb. 1, 2003).

Scobee Rodgers and Dr. Charles Resnik (brother of Judith Resnik) will be joined by their families on Jan. 31 for NASA’s Day of Remembrance at the memorial in Arlington.

Challenger Center is embarking on a renewed effort to reach even more students and help equip them for future success. The organization is launching revolutionary software and missions that will further improve its education offerings. In addition to Reno and San Antonio, new Challenger Learning Centers will open their doors this year in Lockport and Schenectady, N.Y. The Scobee Planetarium and Challenger Learning Center in San Antonio will be home to the first newly designed center.

“We are so proud of the accomplishments that this organization has celebrated over the last 28 years and are excited for what is on the horizon as Challenger Center continues to grow,” said Dr. Lance Bush, president and CEO, Challenger Center. “The staff and Challenger Learning Center teams work tirelessly to not only ensure we keep the crew’s education mission alive, but to truly honor the legacy of these national heroes. It’s a privilege to be a part of this mission.”

In addition to new technologies and a growing network, Challenger Center continues to find ways to stay at the forefront of educational innovation. Most recently, the organization was selected as one of 25 grantees by the U.S. Department of Education for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. The four-year, multi-million-dollar grant will enable Challenger Center to leverage its state-of-the-art technology to bring simulation learning opportunities into classrooms throughout the mid-Atlantic region. The grant will include teacher training, real-time assessment of students, and third-party evaluation of used methodologies. This initial development is the first stage of a multi-phased grant. Challenger Center hopes to ultimately offer the technology nationwide.

For more information, visit www.challenger.org.

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