What: NASA space explorer program
When: Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, 3041 E. Main St. in Farmington
Where: 6 p.m. July 16 and 10 a.m. July 17 (for parents and teachers)
Contact: Cherie Powell, E3 Children's Museum 505-566-2279
FARMINGTON — NASA is inviting area children to take a hands-on approach to their education.
The federal agency will bring its Space Flight Explorer program to Farmington on July 16 and 17 to engage children in science, technology, engineering and math -- known as STEM -- education.
The program aims to engage children with hands-on experiments and demonstrations centered on human space flight, said Cherie Powell, education coordinator at Farmington's E3 Children's Museum and Science Center.
"This has been in the works for more than one year," Powell said. "We have a camp coming up at the end of the month with 20 kids."
Christopher Blair, NASA education coordinator at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, will come to the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park on July 16 at 6 p.m. for a free, public presentation.
Blair will hold a special session for professional development teachers and home-school parents on July 17 at 10 a.m.
This program could be a stepping stone to future initiatives, Powell said.
"It opens up all these doors," she said. "We applied for a down link to the space station."
The link will enable children to speak to astronauts on the international space station, Powell said.
"It's going to be nice," she said. "Kids love this stuff. It creates excitement."
The museum received kits from NASA with materials to help give children a hands-on experience with aspects of space flight, Powell said.
The kits include astronaut food, a food saver to demonstrate the effects of a vacuum and other tools, she said.
Program outreach to small communities such as Farmington is especially important, Blair said.
"NASA strives to make sure we serve under-represented, under-served communities," he said. "It's a way to get kids involved."
The program will also introduce children to a variety of science and technology applications, he said.
"When you look at an agricultural area, a lot of technology goes into (tracking trends)," Blair said. "It's not always a space-based theme."
The underserved population in the Farmington area also includes a high number of Native Americans, he said. Reaching out to Native American children and youth is an especially high priority for the agency.
NASA's ultimate goal with the space flight explorer program is to provide resources so that communities can sustain STEM education into the future, Blair said.
By starting this portion of the campaign in the summer, Blair hopes education and outreach efforts will become self-sustaining, and continue beyond the near-future.
The program has been rolled out in 23 locations from North Dakota down to Texas this year, he said. He hopes to bring the program to about 25 more locations next year.
NASA's education resources are not limited to children, Blair said.
College students and graduating high school seniors will be able to approach E3 Children's Museum staff for information on internship and fellowship opportunities at NASA, he said.
"We're trying to create relationships," Blair said.