Local News: Space educator wins STEM honor (8/13/17)


Former local teamer and STEAM education pioneer Jim Christensen received the first Educator Award from the Buzz Aldrin ShareSpace Foundation. (Photo submitted)

Jim Christensen, former Holstein resident and Galva-Holstein teacher had no idea of where his career would lead him. In 1997 he became the STEM co-coordinator with the Northwest Area Education Agency. He also served as administrative supervisor and consultant.

In March 2008 Christensen served on the board of directors of the Aerospace Engineering Competition. The AEC offers the Space Settlement Design Competitions, an engineering simulation, to high school students around the world. Students participate by forming clubs to compete in a regional qualifying competition or to submit a qualifying proposal. Regional qualifying competitions are currently conducted in Brisbane, Australia; Delhi, India; London, England; Constanta, Romania; Uruguay; and Houston, Texas. These lead to an international competition conducted in Houston, Texas, each July.

Christensen currently works at Delaware North Parks and Resorts in Florida, the authorized concessioner of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Training Academy. The KSCVC Project Team is comprised of representatives from DNCPR and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration — NASA.

“The intent was to develop a new education center which creates an environment where participants are a part of the story of how we will explore space, travel to and from Mars, and explore Mars. Participants will be a part of a dynamic launch, experience simulated microgravity, land on Mars, drive and walk on Mars, live on Mars, and liftoff from Mars. Everything about the new center is built around the idea of immersive experiences, learning related to these experience, and working as a part of a team,” explains Christensen. The program is geared by grades with individual curriculums for each second through ninth grade. “The students are excited about the program and take it seriously as a once in a lifetime learning experience.”

The older students spend one night camping out under the Space Shuttle Atlantis or the Saturn 5 rocket. The Saturn 5 is as large as a football field.

Christensen takes great pride in his participation in the STEM projects. Recently the acronym added an “A” to become STEAM which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and design and mathematics. These are the areas of study that best produce engineering students. The space program, among many other fields, has a great need for young people receiving a varied and strong background in these fields, he says.

Christensen was honored with the first ever Educator Award presented by the Buzz Aldrin ShareSpace Foundation for his contributions to STEAM Education. He is grateful for the many opportunities he’s had to work with outstanding professionals in education and for the amazing students he’s been privileged to work with, he says. He thanks Buzz and Andy Aldrin and the ShareSpace Foundation for an eventful weekend. He was honored along with Mae Carol Jemison, American engineer, physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African-American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on Sept. 12, 1992. The final honoree was Jeffrey Preston “Jeff” Bezos, American technology and retail entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist who is best known as the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com.

“Weekends like this one remind me to be thankful for the people with whom I work, the many people who are such great friends, the ways I have been prepared for the challenges I face, and the incredible opportunities I have been given,” Christensen added. “Lots of people deserve the award. I am happy to receive it as a team leader.”

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