ORLANDO – During a Neighborhood Science activity, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, District 6 City Commissioner Bakari F. Burns, District 5 City Commissioner Regina I. Hill and Orlando Science Center President and CEO JoAnn Newman joined fourth and fifth grade students to create vertical gardens using simulated “moon dirt” at the City of Orlando’s Grand Avenue Neighborhood Center.
“When we developed Grand Avenue, we envisioned a place where children would have all of the amenities and programs to help them thrive,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “Our partnership with the Orlando Science Center and NASA is another way we can connect our youth to education and inspire them onto careers in science and space.”
Rolling up their sleeves, the Mayor, Commissioners and Newman helped the children assemble plastic bottles into miniature green houses where they planted seeds to grow red leaf lettuce in “lunar” dirt, much like astronauts did on the International Space Station when they had to discover how to grow plants on the moon.
The program at Grand Avenue was made possible through a three-year $795,000 grant from NASA to the Orlando Science Center helping them launch their Neighborhood Science Program. The program provides high-quality STEM education to 10-12 students multiple days each week. To date, students have already completed a number of projects in the new STEM lab, including learning about space travel and lunar habitats with the design and creation of printed 3D rockets and by building model shelters that could be constructed on the moon.
“By providing all children with an opportunity for inspiration and education, we begin a pipeline that runs from where they are to exciting careers,” said JoAnn Newman, President & CEO of Orlando Science Center. “Neighborhood Science will expand our impact throughout Central Florida as we create a STEM-centered community that paves the way for access and opportunities for all.”
Through the program, the students will also have the opportunity to interact with NASA astronauts and engineers for mentorship opportunities and to showcase their weekly projects. The goal of this program is to help kids develop critical thinking skills, similar to what astronauts encounter in space, and bring those solutions to current issues they may face. Through consistent and authentic STEM learning, this program will take STEM education directly to underrepresented communities, inspire the next generation of explorers and help address the rising demand for STEM careers, including in Orlando where it’s one of the fastest-growing cities for technology and innovation economy.