By Cheri Dragos-Pritchard
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Child Development Center at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, partnered with the National Defense Industrial Association to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the elementary-age children, providing space-related studies at an earlier age.
The NDIA provides a platform where government, industry and academia can work together to train young children, so as to advance national security and the nation’s defense.
Tom Taylor, NDIA Rocky Mountain Chapter vice president of workforce development, visited the CDC for the second time Feb. 15, 2019, discussing an upcoming experiment with the children, who ranged in age from six to 10 years old.
“The future depends on the early education of children. We can’t wait to introduce them to the importance of science, technology, engineering and math curriculums when they’re in high school,” Taylor said. “We need to put more focus on elementary and middle-school STEM courses.”
Schriever officials saw the importance of partnering with an outside organization that could benefit the children who are enrolled in the CDC’s school-age care program.
“STEM is a required curriculum within our program,” explained Mary Barkley, 50th Force Support Squadron Child and Youth Services flight chief. “We researched outside resources and liked what the NDIA had to offer. Children respond better to hands-on activities when introducing new skills, and Tom’s program fit right into what we were looking for.”
During the first visit, Taylor introduced the youngsters to space, letting the children put on a small astronaut uniform. During the most recent visit, they talked about the effects zero gravity may have on objects, such as seeds.
“We really like teaching these young children about space,” Taylor explained. “I’m retired Air Force, and was stationed here at Schriever, so I understand the importance of educating our future generations to meet the need for space operators.”
In March, the children will participate in an experiment, sending seeds 100,000 feet into the atmosphere, tied to a weather balloon, inside of a specially-made container equipped with GPS, a camera and a small computer to collect data. The experiment will determine if the seeds sent to space will still grow the same as the seeds that stayed on earth.
“The goal is to get the children thinking about future options, jobs that include space,” Taylor said. “Through these experiments and experiences, they can learn how important space is to our future.”
After the children watched a video of a previous experiment, they placed many seeds from four different types of plants into plastic eggs, which Taylor referred to as “Egg Sats” or “egg satellites” and saved the rest to stay on Earth.
Nine-year-old Emma carefully placed her seeds inside her egg, and wrote her corresponding number on the egg.
“I’m excited,” Emma said. “I hope we get to see when the balloon explodes. That would be neat. But I think our space seeds will still grow the same as the other seeds when they bring them back.”
Barkley explained the ultimate goal is to get the word out so more children will take part in the program, and hopefully it will spark an early interest in something the military can benefit from in the future.
“Tom does a great job with the children,” Barkley said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm about the lessons from the children even after Tom leaves. We want to spread the word to let more parents know we offer this type of forward-thinking program for their children, and hopefully they’ll let their children get involved. It’s also perfect timing and fits in great with the new youth center coming later this year.”
The NDIA team plans to come to the CDC at least once a month, on Fridays, when the local school is out to teach the children about various elements of space.
“It takes years of investment for a child’s technical capacity to mature,” said Taylor. “So we’ll keep visiting here, hopefully securing the workforce of the future by promoting disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, that will create well-trained Americans for the jobs of tomorrow.”
For more information about the CDC’s programs, please contact them at 719-567-4742.