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If you had four hours to change a childs life, how would you do it? Victor Williamson, director of the Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center, pushes the frontier of education in search of an answer.

Lights bleed red, flickering with each torpedo impact. Music pounds, ushering adrenaline-fueled choices towards their hapless outcome. Will the starship Voyager and its youthful crew survive? Sci-fi moments like these come often to the elementary school students who go on field trips to the Space Center. Todays crew is Machelle Dahls fifth-grade class from an elementary school in Salt Lake City.

Tensions heat up for the crew members as they struggle with their assignmentssome want more leadership responsibilities while some arent sure how to get started with theirs. But apprehension fades as one crisis after another propels the students into working together to avoid catastrophe and meet their mission objectives. And almost without realizing it, these student-astronauts are applying lessons in social studies and science all in one dramatic, narrative-based experience.

It never occurred to me whatsoever that it was not real, said Ethan on the bus ride home. According to Victor, this emotional blending of reality, education, and role-playing, is what allows the Space Center and its simulators to have a lasting impact in kids lives. More than your average field trip, four hours at the Space Center is four hours well spent.


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