Blake on display at the rocket park at Kennedy Space Center.
Parkland School District’s Space Shuttle Blake has been invited by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.(NASA) to participate in the penultimate voyage of the Space Shuttle and the final flight of Space Shuttle Endeavor recognizing Parkland’s outstanding contribution to science and space exploration education since the Blake was first commissioned in June of 1995. The Parkland Space Shuttle Blake will depart Schnecksville Elementary School via a donated Mack Truck for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, April 21 at 2:00 PM to attend the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on Friday, April 29, 2011.
On launch day, April 29, 2011, Blake will be front and center at the NASA Causeway Launch Viewing Area at the Kennedy Space Center positioned 6.3 miles south of the launch pad. The causeway is the closest public viewing site available for the launch. Blake will be on proud display and open for tours at its location mid-way between the area’s two viewing stands. Blake will also be on display and open for tours at the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor’s Complex on Saturday, April 30th, and Sunday, May 1st.
The Parkland Space Shuttle Blake is a unique educational tool. Shortly after the loss of NASA’s space shuttle Challenger in 1986, the idea for Blake was conceived by Robert Boehmer, a Parkland elementary school art teacher, and his principal, Steve Szilagyi. Mr. Boehmer had participated in NASA’s Teacher in Space Program, the same program that ultimately led to teacher Christa McAuliffe’s inclusion as a crewmember on Challenger’s final flight. Nine years and 40,000+ volunteer hours in the making, the Blake is a 4/10-scale replica of the Space Shuttle on the exterior and a state-of-the-art classroom inside. Since then, it has served more than 64,000 children across the Lehigh Valley with various space exploration learning activities. The “classroom-on-wheels” has ground-to-space communication capabilities, a space shuttle flight simulator, twelve networked multimedia computers, and other hands-on learning centers. Adjacent to the hangar bay at Schnecksville Elementary School, where the shuttle is housed, is a multi-media “mission control” center. This 42-seat briefing area contains equipment for audio and visual presentations. At 20 computer stations, students can interact with those on board the Blake while performing various tasks as part of the space mission learning experience. Lessons are cross-curricular with an emphasis on cooperative learning and teamwork.
The out-of-this-world classroom demonstrates what is possible when an educational concept receives support from the community it serves. The idea for Blake would have never left the ground without the resources and talented workers from local businesses and corporations who have donated money, materials, and thousands of volunteer man-hours to the project. For this final mission to the Kennedy Space Center, the Blake program has received financial support from public and private donations that are fully funding its travel. Special thanks go out to Mack Trucks, Lee Butz, AFC First Financial, Ironton Telephone Company, Service Electric Cable TV and Communications, and American Bank who have donated funds and equipment to make it possible to transport the Blake to Florida. Additionally, Olympus Corporation is loaning camera equipment to help the District record this historic event.
Dr. Louise E. Donohue, Superintendent of Schools, stated, “Our selection to participate in the festivities surrounding the Endeavour’s final mission allows us the privilege of representing the Parkland School District, Pennsylvania, NASA, the and the Astronaut Corps during a national historic event. We are delighted to put this unique educational tool on display for so many others to see.”