Kenai Peninsula students participate in a simulated space mission at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, Alaska, in this undated photo. (Courtesy Colette Gilmour/Challenger Learning Center)

Kenai Peninsula students participate in a simulated space mission at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, Alaska, in this undated photo. (Courtesy Colette Gilmour/Challenger Learning Center)

Donation helps students take flight

A $25,000 donation will be used to fund several STEM programs offered by the Challenger Learning Center

Fifth and sixth graders on the Kenai Peninsula have the opportunity to participate in a simulated spaceflight with their classmates, thanks to an annual donation to the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska from Marathon Petroleum.

Marathon’s $25,000 donation will be used to fund several STEM programs offered by the Challenger Learning Center, according to a Wednesday press release. Marnie Alcott, CEO of the Challenger Center, said Wednesday that while Marathon has helped to fund the Center’s “flagship” space simulator programs for over a decade, this year the funds will also be used to cover the cost of the virtual STEM programs.

Alcott said that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced the Challenger Center to develop virtual programs so that local students who might be resigned to remote learning can still learn about space with their classmates.

“We put a great deal of effort into developing those virtual programs,” Alcott said. “What was really important was that we preserved the Challenger Center’s mission with these programs.”

The virtual programs consist of take-home kits, either picked up at the center or delivered to the students, that contain all the materials needed for the mission. The students then work in groups, remotely, to solve the problems that are presented to them together.

Cameron Hunt, manager of Marathon’s refinery in Kenai, said in the press release that Marathon was proud to cover the costs of these programs for local students.

“We are continually impressed with the programs at Challenger,” Hunt said in the release. “The missions, I believe, represent very real-word challenges and the program helps build the skills to work as a team to solve them. Marathon is proud to be a premier sponsor once again.”

Alcott said that Marathon’s donation is enough to cover 20 missions using the actual space simulator at the Challenger Center, but the virtual missions are less costly, so the number of missions that are covered will depend on how many teachers opt for the virtual program.

Alcott was already getting calls from teachers on Wednesday and said that her calendar was quickly filling up with missions.

Any fifth or sixth grade teachers who would like to participate in one of these missions can call the Challenger Center at 907-283-2000 to book their class.

A list of missions and virtual topics can be found at the Challenger Center’s website, www.akchallenger.org/schoolsandgroups.

Reach reporter Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink addresses members of the media during a remote press conference on Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Alaska. (Screenshot)
Zink: Stay vigilant with COVID mitigation

Some parts of Alaska are experiencing increased COVID transmission

AP Photo/Becky Bohrer 
Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold holds a news conference outside the Senate chambers in the Alaska Capitol on Thursday, in Juneau.
Alaska state Sen. Lora Reinbold holds a news conference outside the Senate chambers in the Alaska Capitol on Thursday, March 4, 2021, in Juneau, Alaska. Reinbold said she wants an apology from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a fellow Republican, after he sent her a letter last month accusing her of misrepresenting the state’s COVID-19 response. A Dunleavy spokesperson said the governor will not be retracting his letter to Reinbold. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
Reinbold wants Dunleavy apology after scathing letter

Reinbold has held hearings highlighting views of those who question the usefulness of masks.

Kenai City Hall on Feb. 20, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai debates future of utility lenience

The city’s disaster declaration is set to expire at the end of this month

Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center 
Computer rendering of the Rocky Coast Discovery Pool exhibit opening at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward spring 2021.
SeaLife Center to unveil revamped touch pool

The exhibit has been in development since 2017

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., listens during the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing on her nomination to be Interior secretary, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Some Republican senators labeled Haaland “radical” over her calls to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and address climate change, and said that could hurt rural America and major oil and gas-producing states. The label of Haaland as a “radical” by Republican lawmakers is getting pushback from Native Americans. (Jim Watson / Pool Photo)
Senate energy panel backs Haaland for interior secretary

Murkowski was the lone Republican to support Haaland.

University of Alaska Board of Regents member Andy Teuber listens to a discussion during a meeting at UAA on Sept. 12, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for an overdue helicopter piloted by Teuber who is the former head of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Teuber had resigned last week after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him which he denied. Teuber left Anchorage about 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in a black and white Robinson R66 helicopter en route to Kodiak Island. (Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP)
Coast Guard ends search for helicopter in waters off Alaska

Andy Teuber, 52, former head of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, left Anchorage about 2 p.m. Tuesday.

Assembly Member Tyson Cox speaks during a Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting on Tuesday, March 2 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough extends disaster declaration

Large-scale clinics hosted in part by the borough can vaccinate hundreds in one day

EMT Jason Tauriainen administers a COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, Jan. 23 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Nikiski Senior Center)
More people eligible to receive COVID vaccine

Alaska continues to lead the nation in vaccine rollout

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander (left) and Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel present their 2021 “State of the City” address on Wednesday in Kenai.
Kenai saw increase in sales tax revenue in 2020

The city saw growth all four quarters in 2020

Most Read