Colorado Consortium for Earth and Space Science Education is partnering with Peyton Manning and the Air Force Academy to bring space exploration closer to kids this summer.

CCESSE, the parent company of Challenger Learning Center, was awarded $5,000 in grants from the PeyBack Foundation and $10,000 from USAFA…. These funds will be used by Challenger to provide low-cost camps for students at two Academy District 20 elementary schools. Pioneer and High Plains were chosen to host these STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs as part of Challenger’s Aerospace Adventure Camps. A combined 60 kids – grades 1-5 – are registered for the week-long programs that will start in July.

“Integrated learning is the best learning,” said Pioneer Principal Diane Quarles-Naghi. “When you think of the responsibility we bear as parents and as educators to prepare our children for their futures, we must commit ourselves to STEM learning.

“Many of our parents wouldn’t have been able to pay the usual cost of camp, but they jumped at this opportunity. We actually had parents with tears of appreciation that we could offer this opportunity to their children at a fee they could afford.”

Grant money paid $250 of the total $275 camp fee per student but parents were asked to contribute $25 for healthy lunch and snacks.

The PeyBack Foundation focuses primarily on economically disadvantaged youth. Emphasis is placed on programs that have a direct benefit to children through relationships and activities. Programs that are intended to enrich the lives of disadvantaged youth through activities conducted outside the typical school day (i.e., after-school and summer programming) are particularly favored by the Foundation. Challenger’s proposal was one of 700 applications.

For many years, USAFA has dedicated funds through the National Defense Education Grant to provide STEM outreach for El Paso County K-12 schools. This marks the first time that a portion of that fund will be used to provide summer camps. Challenger applied for the funds to be directed toward these schools.

“We’re looking to inspire the next Thomas Edison or Sally Ride,” said Rob Fredell, President and CEO of CCESSE, the parent company for Challenger.  “Not every child can afford that extra boost it may take to inspire a future engineer, astronaut or scientist. We are grateful to friends like Peyton Manning and USAFA to be able to help kids dream big.”

Pioneer and High Plains are but two of the seven sites Challenger camps will visit this summer. Camps that focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) are offered at Challenger, Library 21C near Chapel Hills Mall, St. Paul’s Catholic School in the Broadmoor, Pine Lane Elementary in Parker, and St. Mary’s High School near the Citadel Mall.

The barnstorming idea germinated after some parents, making the drive from Pueblo last summer, asked for something closer to the south end of Colorado Springs. CLCC offers camps for grades 1-12 and generally attracts customers from a 75-mile radius.

“We are glad to be able to bring our programs to the students,” Fredell said. “We know parents have enough to deal with and we don’t mind putting in a few miles to spread the STEM message. We think it’s pretty important.”

The Challenger Center will continue to offer camps at its northern Colorado Springs site for three weeks this summer. Located at 10215 Lexington Drive, adjacent to Challenger Middle School, CLCC conducts student-run missions both on site and through video conferencing, professional development classes for teachers, as well as offering public missions and camps for all ages. Challenger integrates space experiences, including a shuttle simulator, mission control, and space station, with classroom study and teamwork.

“We are excited to have Challenger Learning Center camps at Pine Lane.  Camps developed by professionals working in the space science field add a whole new layer of skills and excitement,” said Stephanie Kawamura, leader of the Gifted and Talented program at Pine Lane. “We are passionate about offering students a variety of experiences.  In today’s world, it is important to encourage students to explore different activities, gain new skills, and build relationships with other participants.  Summer enrichment camps inspire children to dream big and take risks!”

Pine Lane will be hosting camps the week of June 29. In this new collaboration, Pine Lane will supply the classrooms and the instructors and Challenger supplies the curriculum and the hardware.

“The CLCCS robotics camps are high quality and provide participants many opportunities to work on the 4 C’s (collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking),” Kawamura said. “Facilitated by Pine Lane Elementary teachers, the curriculum will be taught with fidelity and World Class Outcomes will be addressed.”

Challenger is offering camps for grades 1-8 during June 29-July 2 at Pine Lane – Space Adventures (grades 1-2), Jr Robotics PLUS (3-5) and LEGO Robotics (6-8). Camps begin at 8:30 am and end at 3:30 pm. Pre-registration is necessary and can be done online at or by calling Challenger at 719-598-9755.

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