Center continues to teach space exploration

By Brandi Cummings - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - While many South Carolinians remember exactly what they were doing on this day 25 years ago, some students were learning about the Challenger explosion for the first time Friday.

It may have been a cold January day in 1986 at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, but there was lots of excitement surrounding the launch of the space shuttle Challenger. Thelma Clavon was a teacher in Baltimore, Maryland at the time. "They were watching the launch, and we were supposed to do a lot of activities involving the event," said Clavon.

As the world experienced the shuttle take off, no one expected what happened next. "I can tell you that when the explosion took place, we were all in disbelief," said Clavon.

Despite the shock, she remained in the classroom helping her students grasp the magnitude of what they all witnessed. "We did what all good teachers do," said Clavon, "We addressed the moment. We saw that as a teachable moment for the students and then provided comfort for the students and for other colleagues at that particular time."

That experience has given her a unique perspective in her current role as director of Columbia's Challenger Learning Center. There are 48 centers in the world. It's a place where students can learn about science, math and space exploration. They also learn about the men and women who lost their lives 25 years ago.

Although the children who will experience this event now were not born at the time of the Challenger explosion, the lessons learned will live on. "We know that space exploration is kind of on hold for a little while now and that last shuttle will go up in April, but we know there will be great things that will be happening in the future," said Clavon.

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