skip to main content
Heartland Community College

STEM Field Trips

Bring the excitement of hands-on STEM experiences to your students. In-person and virtual missions are in full swing. Call us at 309-268-8700  to reserve your spots! 

Students in Space Station

Fifth- through eighth-grade students are transported to an immersive STEM environment, completing a simulated space mission and hands-on experiments throughout the day that encourage critical thinking and teamwork. 

Plan your day 

In-person experiences consist of students completing a 2-hour STEM Challenge, followed by a 30-minute lunch, and then 2-hour Simulated Training Mission. Our team is able to adjust program times to accommodate bus schedules.

For schools not able to stay the full day, we offer a half-day package consisting of a 2-hour in-person mission and 1-hour virtual mission that can be done back at school. The virtual mission can be done on the same day as the field trip or teachers may choose to complete the virtual portion later in the school year. Schools coming for half day can elect to do the virtual mission ahead of their in-person visit.

The Simulation (2 hours)

Students embark on an immersive simulated space mission, commanding Mission Control, launching into space on the shuttle, and conducting research in the Space Lab. There are two standard mission scenarios: Lunar Quest and Expedition Mars. See details below.  

  • Mission Control:
    In Mission Control, students will take charge of their space mission when they become the flight control technicians responsible for guiding astronauts through their mission.
  • Spacecraft:
    In the Spacecraft, students become astronauts responsible for navigating through space, conducting experiments, monitoring crew health and safety, and building a probe to launch in space.
  • Crew Exchange: 
    Halfway through the mission, students will switch places, so that each participant has the opportunity to experience BOTH Mission Control and the Spacecraft.

STEM Challenges  (2 hours)

Students will become a NASA research team in our Discovery Lab, carrying out hands-on investigations where they are in charge and asked to make decisions using the data the collect for future missions.

  • The Simulation:

    NASA has recently identified areas on the Moon that may be able to support a sustainable long-term habitat for humans. In order to confirm this finding, NASA has issued a directive for human astronauts to return to the Moon. A team of astronauts must board a spacecraft and launch their way to the Moon, while a team of scientists and engineers must man their posts in Mission Control on Earth to command and assist the astronauts. Once the spacecraft crew successfully lands on the Moon, they must deploy a Lunar Exploration Rover to investigate the different areas to confirm that the Moon can be settled for long-term human habitation. However, when the crew begins to receive troubling readings from below the surface, the two teams must work together and make critical decisions to turn a possible catastrophe into NASA’s finest hour.

    Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) applied, 5th grade:

    • 5-ESS2-1 Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere interact.

    Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) applied, 6th grade:
    • MS-ESS3-1 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how the uneven distributions of Earth's mineral, energy, and groundwater resources are the result of past and current geoscience processes
  • The Simulation:

    The year is 2076. A handful of facilities have been established on Mars: a greenhouse, a mobile geological survey base, and a centralized research habitat. The primary human habitat is not on Mars, but on one of its moons, Phobos. A Spacecraft regularly ferries astronauts and scientists between the base on Phobos and the surface of Mars. The Spacecraft also carries parts to build a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to continue the search for evidence of life and water. However, when crew members discover an imminent threat to their spacecraft and the Martian surface facilities, they must act quickly to save their stations, their research, and their lives.

    Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) applied:

    •  MS-ETS1-2, MS-ETS1-3, MS-SEP

    STEM Challenges

    After landing their own rover on Mars, students continue the investigation, and decide the best way to provide power to a research base on Mars. In this hands-on engineering challenge, students are split into teams and explore solar panels or wind turbines. Groups will collect data using real solar panels or a model turbine to help them decide which they would choose to power the research base. Students will then practice driving a rover through a point and click coding program that challenges them to navigate a rover to specific destinations on Mars across various terrain and hazards.

    Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) applied

    • Reinforces NGSS Science and Engineering Practices (Engaging in Argument from Evidence & Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information)

    Number of students Full day STEM Challenge & Training Mission Half day Training Mission
    & Virtual Mission 
    16-30 $595 $595
    31-60 $1,190


    60+ Please contact our center for pricing.


    Cost of optional boxed lunch (students may bring a sack lunch)  $7 per person


    Scholarships are available to public K-12 schools and their students participating in simulated space missions and programs.  Scholarships are based on the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch program and your school's geographic distance from the Challenger Learning Center.  

  • Call us at 309-268-8700 or fill out the form below. Scholarships are available to public K-12 schools and their students participating in simulated space missions and programs.  Scholarships are based on the percentage of students on free and reduced lunch program and your school's geographic distance from the Challenger Learning Center.  

  • Implement CLC curriculum to prepare your students for their experience. This curriculum may be used in conjunction with any school district's curriculum or as a stand-alone curriculum. After booking, teachers will have access to free online materials to help prepare your students. 

Contact Us

Challenger Learning Center
1500 W. Raab Rd.
Normal, IL 61761
Phone: 309-268-8700
Fax: 309-268-7984