SAN BERNARDINO — On Oct. 12, the Lewis Center for Educational Research will send a delegation of students and educators from its Norton Science & Language Academy campus to Concepción, Chile for a week of STEAM-based learning.
During the trip, the delegates will collaborate with students and teachers from Colegio Concepción, a K-12 school, on curriculum centered on the GAVRT Radio Astronomy Program, part of an ever-evolving partnership between the Lewis Center and NASA/JPL.
Norton, a TK-8 public charter school in San Bernardino, hosted Chilean delegates from Colegio Concepción last May. The trip represents the continuation of more than a decade’s worth of collaboration between Chilean educators and the Lewis Center.
Norton Principal Dr. Fausto Barragan said the school’s dual-immersion approach — meaning students learn in Spanish and English — helped prepare the student delegates for immersion into a different culture.
He called the experience “the most powerful kind of learning.”
“The opportunity the Lewis Center and Colegio Concepción have given our middle school students is groundbreaking,” Barragan said. “They will be able to apply their science knowledge and Spanish skills thousands of miles from the Norton campus. Talk about hands-on learning.”
Thanks to the generous support of donors, the trip will also further Norton’s mission of “creating global citizens,” Barragan said.
During their stay in Chile, the Norton delegates will travel to the city of Chillán and the Port of Talcahuano. They will also celebrate Teacher’s Day in Chile on Oct. 16 and visit the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, which joined the GAVRT program in 2008.
GAVRT, the Lewis Center’s longest-running educational program, utilizes a 111-foot radio telescope located in Goldstone, California, near Barstow to engage more than 50,000 students around the world in studying black holes and planets, and helping in the monitoring of spacecraft health in partnership with NASA/JPL.
Ricardo Bustos, associate professor for the Electrical Engineering program at UCSC, first worked on the GAVRT program in 2008 when he traveled to Apple Valley with six Chilean teachers for a one-week training session.
Bustos has served as general coordinator of the GAVRT program in Chile since 2013. His involvement helped bring GAVRT to six Chilean schools, including Colegio Concepción.
Since 2009, nearly 50 connections to the Goldstone antenna for GAVRT sessions have been made, including 11 that were part of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) project.
Bustos said the GAVRT activities and trips provide unique STEAM-based learning opportunities, access to NASA/JPL scientists and cross-cultural connections that deepen the educational experience for students.
“It is impossible not to be astonished by their achievements,” Bustos said. “I see these students reach for higher goals and combat larger challenges with the high self-confidence obtained by participating in the GAVRT program.”
Lisa Lamb, president and CEO of the Lewis Center, said the journey to Chile will broaden the cultural, scientific and educational understanding of the Norton delegates, in addition to being a fun, once in a lifetime experience.
“Chile is commonly regarded as an astronomer’s paradise, which is one reason why our partnerships with Colegio Concepción and UCSC are so strong,” Lamb said. “I’m so excited for our students, and I can’t wait to hear the great stories they bring home.”