ROCK SPRINGS — Students in Sweetwater County School District No. 1 are playing a role in the U.S. Department of Education’s ongoing effort to solve a national problem — the critical shortage of students with mastery of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills.
Through an exciting out-of-school collaboration between the Department and NASA, local students are conducting scientific observations of the natural environment and (are) learning the relevance of STEM skills to daily life.
Rock Springs Junior High is part of the Department’s Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) Grant Program, which focuses in part on exposing students in high-need schools to meaningful STEM learning opportunities.
One goal of the 21st CCLC program — which serves more than 1.7 million students nationwide — is to demonstrate the value of STEM skills both inside and outside the classroom, thereby raising student interest in STEM and related professions.
Since NASA first became a partner in 2013, available programs have grown from 20 sites in three states to nearly 180 sites across 18 states in 2020-2021. This year’s programming allows NASA to offer unique experiences in the STEM Challenges.
These STEM Challenges introduce students to the engineering design process so they can develop solutions to real NASA challenges, such as how to land a spacecraft on Mars or grow plants in lunar habitats. Students work with NASA engineers and scientists to receive feedback on their work, learn about STEM careers and find out what it is like to work in science and engineering professions.
In 2020-2021, students in Wyoming are participating in the NASA partnership program. This year they are working on the project how to parachute onto Mars. Rock Springs Junior High students have the opportunity to interact with high-level STEM practitioners; the engaging, hands-on nature of the activities; the ability to understand how STEM skills can benefit daily life and the need to prepare students for an increasingly complex and competitive job market.