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Space Exploration Learning Center Opens At Shawnee

On the 25th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion, the Academy at Shawnee in Louisville celebrated the opening of an academic program inspired by the mission.The Challenger Learning Center is intended to make science and math education more interesting by showing how the subjects are used in space exploration. Challenger astronaut Norman Thagard directed a learning center in Florida. He says the goal is not to inspire students to be astronauts, but to make them interested in science."The kids, if you ask them after they come through it, they're all excited," he says. "What they learn is science and engineering are fun and they may never have known that until they go through the experience. And they find out what it is and they go through it in an environment that excites them."This is the 48th Challenger Learning Center in the country. Mayor Greg Fischer says it's an important step in improving students' aptitude in math and science, since the United States has slipped in recent years."We used to be number one in everything," he says. "Now we're 10 or 20 or 30 and we say 'How is this happening? 'Well, sometimes it's good old-fashioned things like we get outworked. Sometimes we don't provide all the opportunities we should provide."Shawnee principal Keith Look says it's one of several initiatives that will improve the school and the surrounding neighborhood."West Louisville is a special place. We now have a new anchor to the west Market Street corridor project. We have the future development of a science triangle between us and the Science Center and the planetarium. We have put all sorts of things on the map and new pictures," he says.A group of students at Shawnee has developed a project that will be sent into space on the last shuttle mission