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Challenger Learning Center brings food security program down to Earth

Sabine Poux/KDLL

The latest project at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai is very ... earthly.

The center, known mostly for its space-themed missions for students, is now on the receiving end of a community grantfrom NASA to bring a food security and sustainability program to adults and students in the community.

Marnie Olcott is CEO at the Kenai center. She said they've been doing food security programming for a while, integrated into its simulated space missions.

“It’s exactly the same, is the thing," she said. "The same process is gone through, whether or not you’re figuring out what to do here on Earth. In fact, we have to know what works here on Earth in different environments before we can take it into space.”

Starting this spring, the center will offer a series of workshops, open to the community, on topics like crop selection, high tunnels, hydroponics and cold storage. There will be both lecture and hands-on components to those workshops and they’ll have guest speakers come in, as well.

Next year, Olcott said, they’ll expand the program for students.

It might not be the kind of programming you’d expect from a center founded to teach space-themed programming. But Olcott said it falls under the umbrella of the center’s mission.

“It’s a viable, makes-sense, relevant type of science program that we can work on and offer to the community," Olcott said. "And that’s one of the things here at Challenger that we’ve always done with our programs, is that we strive to make them relevant to people. And this program is very much that.”

She said her staff has started planning how workshops will be structured. And she said they’re looking to involve locals in the planning efforts.

She asks those who might have expertise they’d like to share to get in touch with the center.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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