Blogs  |  6.18.2024

Building Partnerships for Climate Education: Challenger Center Collaborates with GMRI

Lauren Goff, Senior Program Director, Education

Earlier this year, Challenger Center’s Education Team visited the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, known as GMRI, in Portland, Maine. GMRI is a locally focused organization dedicated to building the sustainability of the Gulf of Maine and the ecosystems and communities that depend on it. They engage with hundreds of local stakeholders, both in community outreach opportunities and educational experiences for young learners, to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Gulf of Maine.

In addition to their essential research in their region, the members of GMRI are also partners with Challenger Center in our Science Activation (SciAct) collaboration with NASA. At our SciAct conference in November, we had the opportunity to start some conversations with Leigh Peake, their Chief Education Officer, to discuss partnerships and outreach initiatives between GMRI and Challenger Learning Center of Maine. It was so exciting to bring members from both groups together to brainstorm ways to bring more educational programs about local ecosystem sustainability and climate change to learners!

We used our time together to talk about our existing educational programs, brainstorm new initiatives and pathways to partner together, and discuss strategies to broaden outreach in those regional communities. Specifically, we brainstormed some initiatives centered around our newest space mission, Earth Odyssey, which focuses on observing ecosystems and Earth processes to better understand our changing climate. It was a day full of collaboration, creative thinking, and great conversation in hopes to build a long-term partnership between two impactful STEM organizations in the region.

During our visit, Leigh and the Challenger Center team flew an Earth Odyssey test mission and talked about ways we could align initiatives surrounding our new program. The opportunity to meet in a Challenger Learning Center simulator, show off our new program, and think about ways to enhance the STEM experience was really meaningful.

During our visit to the GMRI, we also had the opportunity to experience their hands-on LabVenture program. LabVenture is an interactive investigation that allows students to learn more about the changing ecosystems along the coast of Maine via a combination of simulation software and actual hands-on lab activities. While viewing and handling a live lobster, our team learned about the impacts of climate change on marine life in Maine.

The immersive nature of this experience and the way it blends technology with real-world, hands-on science exemplifies the kind of high-quality educational experiences offered by many SciAct partners, including what we create at Challenger Center. Seeing GMRI’s approach to these programs in action was incredibly insightful for our team, as we consider how to enhance our own program offerings.

We are so thankful to be an integral part of NASA’s Science Activation Collaborative. It provides us the opportunity to extend our reach to so many communities. The partnership between GMRI and our Challenger Learning Center in Maine is a great example of how we can bridge organizations, learn from one another, and reach more young learners through STEM experiences. We are looking forward to seeing how these experiences grow in the future!