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Heartland Community College

STEM Field Trips

Bring the excitement of hands-on STEM experiences to your students. Face-to-face 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. 

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: Rendezvous with a Comet 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:

    The year is 2061 A.D. Comet Enke, which orbits the Sun approximately once every 3.3 years, is once again in the portion of its orbit that brings it through the interior of our solar system. As it passes near Earth, we are given the opportunity to study the comet from an Earth-orbiting Space Station. Your students as scientists and engineers must work together to locate the fast-moving comet, build a probe to intercept, and use the data collected to answer questions back at NASA.

    Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) applied:

    • 5-PS1-3, 5-PS2-1, MS-ESS1-3, MS-ESS1-2

    STEM Challenges

    After launching a probe in their comet mission, students will delve into the science behind how the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) explores the universe. Using Vernier Go Direct Light Sensors, students engage in two interactive activities. First, they measure the light reflected from objects of various sizes to understand how size impacts light interaction, simulating how JWST determines the size of celestial objects. Next, they solve a light maze using mirrors, culminating in an exploration of gas spectroscopy to identify what hypothetical objects in space are made of. These activities offer students a real-world application of scientific principles, such as reflection and refraction, while honing their skills in data analysis and interpretation, all tied to NGSS standards

    Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) applied:

    • 5-PS1-3 Matter and Its Interactions
  • 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 Cost of mission and
    STEM challenge
    (4 hours total)
    Cost of optional boxed lunch (students may be bring a sack lunch)
    16-30 $595 $7/student
    31-60 $1,190


    60+ Please contact our center for pricing.


    If you desire a shorter experience, please contact our center for pricing.

    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