When teachers in the Zachary Community School District tell their students to aim for the stars, they really mean it. This year, 5th through 12th grade students in Zachary have the opportunity to participate in a spaceflight experiments design competition to develop experiments which will fly aboard the final currently scheduled flight of the United States Space Shuttle, the flight of Endeavour on STS-134 currently set for launch in February 2011. Only 15 school districts in the United States are participating in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP). 

Various teams of students around the district are currently hard at work on the design phase of their experiments. The deadline for student proposals to the ZCSD is November 11, at which time the three finalists will be selected to have their projects forwarded to SSEP.  From the three proposals submitted to SSEP by the Zachary Community School District, one will be chosen to fly on the shuttle in February assuming the experiment passes a formal flight safety review. 

Zachary Community School District has secured partial funding for this project through the Louisiana Space Consortium (LaSPACE).  SSEP will engage not just students and teachers in the process of inquiry and this remarkable opportunity, but also parents and the community through a customized blog, and Tweetups with scientists and engineers.  This approach to community engagement is a focus of the district’s Journey to College and Career Program which includes rich STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) opportunities for all of our students.  

The SSEP is a program of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) whose director is Dr. Jeff Goldstein.  The goal of the program is to ensure a large number of student participants in the design competition in our district by providing opportunities for participation through multiple venues, including direct instruction during class hours and also in after-school venues. 

The Student Space Flight Experiments Program [or SSEP] is undertaken by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), a project of the 501(c)(3) Tides Center, in partnership with Nanoracks, LLC.  This on-orbit educational research opportunity is enabled through NanoRacks LLC, which is working in partnership with NASA under a Space Act Agreement as part of the utilization of the International Space Station as a National Laboratory. 

More information on the program can be found at http://ssep.ncesse.org

 To arrange an interview with any of the renowned scientists working to make this possible for our students or to arrange a visit to one of our district teams’ collaboration times to see the students in action, please contact Adonica Duggan at adonica.duggan@zacharyschools.org  or 225-658-4969. You may also contact Zachary’s SSEP Community Program Director Tammy Wood at tammy.wood@zacharyschools.org or 225-270-2787.

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