Thursday, January 20, 2011

What started out as a tragedy on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986 has turned into a monumental educational triumph. The Challenger Center for Space Science Education, which serves as a living legacy to the astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger, is a not-for-profit education organization created in 1986 by the families of the astronauts from Challenger Space Shuttle "Teacher in Space" mission STS-51-L. This year marks its 25th year of using science and math to help students build the skills most needed for the 21st century, including decision-making, teamwork, problem solving and communication. As many residents know, Dr. June Scobee Rodgers (the widow of the Challenger Commander, Dick Scobee) is a Chattanooga resident and a driving force behind the formation of our local Challenger Center. The Challenger STEM Learning Center at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga is one of 48 international Challenger Center locations.

On the 25th anniversary of the tragedy, Challenger STEM Learning Center at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga wishes to continue to honor and remember crew members and their families. We are asking that students be encouraged to interview a parent, family member or friends and ask the simple question, "Where were you on January 28th, 1986 when you heard about the Challenger tragedy?" The Challenger Center will then develop an article based on the responses received and will submit to local news media for publication. Students may include their name, school, and grade level and their parent's name with their submission. Students are requested to email their responses to the Challenger STEM Learning Center at Additionally, students may post their responses on the UTC Challenger Center’s Facebook page ( or the Challenger Center’s blog (

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Out of this World!

June Scobee Rodgers’ Newest Book is Out of This World

Chattanooga, Tenn. -- June Scobee Rodgers is best known as the founding chairman of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. But her newest venture is gaining attention in places like New York City, Hollywood and DragonCon in Atlanta.

They are the first stops on a speaking and book signing tour to introduce Moonbase Crisis, the first in a new series of “Star Challengers” science fiction adventures for young readers. Along with her co-authors the international bestselling authors, Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson, June Scobee Rodgers is taking readers on a journey to the future and a real moon base in trouble, where they will learn skills to save the human race.

The next stop on her book-signing tour is her beloved Challenger Learning Center at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She will host a Micronauts session for Girls Inc. on Oct. 13, and present books to Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences 6th graders at 2 p.m. on Oct. 15.

“Chattanooga is my home and the Challenger Learning Center at UTC is the perfect place to launch Moonbase Crisis for our community’s adventurous children,” said Dr. Rodgers. “We fly missions to the moon and Mars every day at Challenger Centers. The book takes young imaginations one step closer to the stars.”

“The Star Challengers with their Commander Zota ‘boldly go into the future’ to bring great science fiction adventures to their readers,” said Star Trek’s Mr. Spock Leonard Nimoy. “What a wonderful way to expand young imaginations.”

The series of adventure stories are designed to spark student interest in learning, and careers in science, technology, engineering and math. The book signings are the first in a series of events celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Center. A Teachers Manual has been created to compliment the books for classroom use.

“The Star Challengers series takes the minds of young readers up into space, onto the moon and to the boundaries of their imaginations,” said Astronaut Neil Armstrong. “It’s the next best thing to being there.” More info at

Dr. Rodgers is the widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee who perished in the 1986 Challenger accident. Since then she has been the driving force, along with other family members, in fostering new generations of students in science, technology, engineering and math. Now, with nearly 50 Learning Centers around the world, Challenger Center reaches 400,000 students and 40,000 educators each year through simulated space missions, educational programs and teacher workshops.

For more information, please visit

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Astronaut Roger Crouch visited the Challenger Learning Center while promoting the new Hubble Telescope IMAX movie in Chattanooga, TN. Dr. Crouch spoke to Bright School's 5th grade class and Seneca Middle School's 8th grade class. During his presentation, he spoke about how he became an astronaut and what it was like to travel into space on two separate occasions. According to Dr. Crouch, his first trip up to space only lasted 4 days, but the second trip lasted 16 days! While speaking to the students, Dr. Crouch encouraged all student to “Never give up on your dreams!”

To learn more about Astronaut Roger Crouch, visit

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

STARS (Science Teachers Achieving Real Success)

September 2009

The UTC Challenger Learning Center, in partnership with UTC and the Memphis City School System, was awarded the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s (THEC) Improving Teacher Quality grant STARS (Science Teachers Achieving Real Success) in the Classroom. In June 2009, thirty participating science teachers from across Tennessee learned to integrate and deepen their knowledge of science, learning, and pedagogy through hands-on, inquiry-based learning using the ARIES curriculum.

Developed at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, ARIES is an astronomy-based physical science program closely aligned with the National Science Education Standards (NSES).

During the week-long summer seminar, STARS facilitators modeled inquiry-based instruction in two ARIES modules, “Exploring Energy” and “Exploring Light and Color”. Each participating teacher built and used several apparatuses to observe natural phenomena in order to construct a deeper understanding of science concepts. At the end of the seminar, teachers received a classroom set for each module that includes one teacher manual, 30 student science journals, and one apparatus bin that contains the materials students need to conduct their explorations for the 2009-2010 school year.

Friday, July 31, 2009

AIAA Recognition for the Challenger Center Network

(from left to right) Roger Simpson, Chair of AIAA Foundations Board of Trustees; Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, Founding Chair and Founding Director, Challenger Center for Space Science Education; and David Thompson, President, AIAA.

June 2009

Chattanooga resident Dr. June Scobee Rodgers accepted the 2009 American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Foundation Award for Excellence for the Challenger Center for Space Science Education in Alexandria, Virginia, last May.

The Challenger Center Network was recognized for “two decades of inspiration and fostering interest in careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”

Rodgers, widow of Challenger Commander Dick Scobee, is the founding director and founding chair for the center.

Challenger Center plays a key role in engaging young Americans in science and technology. Challenger Learning Center programs worldwide continue the space shuttle Challenger 51-L crew’s mission of engaging teachers and students in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Over the past 23 years, Challenger’s network of 46 Challenger Learning Centers around the world has reached millions of teachers and students. Each year more than 300,000 students fly a simulated space mission at one of the Challenger Learning Centers. Over 35,000 teachers attend professional development workshops.

The UTC Challenger Center is part of the international network of Challenger Centers, and was the first center located on a college campus. UTC’s Challenger Center developed the Micronauts program for young children, which has been adopted by Challenger Centers around the world.

With more than 31,000 members, the AIAA is the world’s largest professional society devoted to the progress of engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. In a critical 2008 AIAA report, “Working Together to Build the Aerospace Workforce of Tomorrow,” AIAA noted that “Methods should be sought to support, expand, and clone programs like the Challenger Learning Centers, which have used space as the ‘spark plug’ to motivate STEM education interest in over five million children.” STEM includes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education.

The AIAA Foundation Award of Excellence recognizes unique contributions and extraordinary accomplishments by organizations or individuals. Past recipients are: the National Reconnaissance Office, Sen. John Glenn, Norman R. Augustine, Daniel Goldin, Gen. Tommy Franks, John Travolta, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, Alan Mulally, L.S. “Skip” Fletcher, Gordon Bethune, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The science community, NASA, and aerospace industry are striving to attract students who can one day meet the needs of a versatile technical and scientific future workforce. AIAA’s 2008 report warns that the United States needs to make a greater investment in STEM education to maintain and increase the skilled workforce needed in the 21st century.

Challenger Center for Space Science Education is a non-profit organization founded in 1986 by the families of the astronauts tragically lost during the last flight of Challenger Space Shuttle 51-L. Using space exploration as a theme, Challenger Center creates positive experiences that raise students’ expectations of success.

By Tia Tappan, UTC intern

THEC grants aimed at improving teacher education

(from left to right) Dr. Phil Oldham, Provost, Dan Barstow, President of the National Challenger Center for Space Science Education, Tom Patty, Director of the UTC Challenger Center, Chancellor Roger Brown

April 6, 2009

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) has awarded funding to five projects from The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, for a total of $358,937. UTC had more Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) Grant Program proposals funded than any other Tennessee higher education institution. UTC projects recommended for funding represent 38 percent of all the ITQ projects funded. “This demonstrates our commitment to grooming leaders in education and preparing teachers for their best classroom experience,” said Dr. Mary Tanner, Dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies. “Improving the classroom skills of our teachers is a significant step in increasing learning and student achievement.”

Other Tennessee institutions to secure ITQ funding are Austin Peay, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Memphis, Lipscomb University, and the Memphis College of Art, receiving one award each; Tennessee Tech and UT Knoxville each received two awards. Four out of the five UTC projects will support Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education. “Promoting STEM education is a national goal of the federal government,” said Chancellor Roger Brown. “These initiatives help move Chattanooga and Tennessee toward that goal.”

The five UTC projects funded by the ITQ Program are:

  • Project: “PLAN of ACTion for High School Mathematics Teachers”
    Director: Tracy Hughes, Mathematics
    Award: $74, 679
    Description: In tenth grade, students take the PLAN test which provides critical information about a student’s future college math readiness level. This summer workshop for high school mathematics teachers will cover teaching strategies, a deep knowledge of math content and a firm understanding of state standards so they can use PLAN test results to benefit their students.

  • Project: “Mapping a Curriculum to EXPLORE in Middle School Mathematics”
    Director: Meg Kiessling, Mathematics
    Award: $62,709
    Description: New mathematics standards will be adopted by the state of Tennessee Department of Education for the 2009-10 school year. This summer workshop will assist middle school educators in understanding the changes.

  • Project: “Mathematical Processes and Problem Solving”
    Director: Dr. Deborah McAllister, Teacher Preparation Academy
    Award: $74,760
    Description: This series of summer workshops will target improvement in teachers’ mathematical process and problem solving skills.

  • Project: “STARS in the Classroom: Science Teachers Achieving Real Success in the Classroom”
    Director: Tom Patty, Director of the UTC Challenger Center
    Award: $74,536
    Description: This summer professional development workshop will allow elementary and middle school teachers from the Memphis City School system to integrate and deepen their knowledge of science, learning and pedagogy through hands-on, inquiry based instruction.

  • Project: “Reading Nonfiction, Reading the World: Preparing Middle and High School Students for Academic Success and Informed Citizenship”
    Director: Dr. Lauren Ingraham, Department of English
    Award: $72,253
    Description: This summer workshop will introduce teachers to reading strategies, reflective writing, hands-on projects, and assessment methods designed to help teachers facilitate their students’ understanding of nonfiction texts.

To learn more about participation in any of the workshops described, please contact the office of Dr. Mary Tanner, Dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies at (423) 425-4249.