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By Cameron Hunt, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 06, 2019
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Carol Rieping and Fola Davidson, 21st Force Support Squadron STARBASE instructors, demonstrate a project launch experiment, Jan. 31, 2019 at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. STARBASE Peterson is a school program that offers free enrichment programs that focus on teaching kids science technology engineering and math skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Camer-on Hunt)
The STARBASE facility provides a unique education experience for students of military members and civilians across four different school districts. Peterson Air Force Base is one of more than 60 STARBASE sites in the U.S., including a site in Puerto Rico.
“We teach students in a fun, engaging environment, free from homework and assessments,” said Patricia Smathers, 21st Force Support Squadron STARBASE Peterson director. “Our emphasis is on math and science, which covers lessons in physics, chemistry, 3D software, GPS receiver usage, nanotechnology and the study of the engineering design process. On average, we have 1300 students and conduct over 56 5-week classes annually.”
STARBASE is an acronym for Science Technology Academies Reinforcing Basic Aviation Space Exploration. The name was likely coined by the founder of the program, Barbara Koscak.
“Koscak was a Michigan teacher that recognized students weren’t understanding science and math when taught in a traditional class setting, and opted for a more hands-on approach,” said Smathers. “She knew kids liked dinosaurs, ghosts and airplanes. She couldn’t find any ghosts or dinosaurs, but did find airplanes at the nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base. STARBASE One was born from that experience and grew from there.”
The STARBASE program services at-risk students found in Title 1 schools where 50 percent or more of the student population is on free or reduced lunches, Smathers said.
“Particularly, our target audience is to reach out to those who are underrepresented, socio-economically disadvantaged, have low academic performance, and or have a disability,” said Smathers.
STARBASE offers students the opportunity to earn their fifth-grade science credit through 25 hours of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math academics activities and courses.
“The students come to the facility one day a week for five weeks, and after completion receive a certificate and a personally completed activity book that their teachers at their parent school can choose to use as a STEM or science grade,” Smathers said. “Students come from local Harrison, District 2, Widefield, District 3, Colorado Springs, District 11 and Falcon, District 49.”
Local meteorologist, Stacy Garvilla, came to visit the facility and gave a presentation on her job as chief meteorologist. She explained how weather patterns affect Colorado Springs and what to do in case of a weather emergency.
Guest speakers visit the STARBASE facility to illustrate how excelling in the math and science disciplines can be applied into today’s workforce.
The STARBASE Peterson facility is another way Peterson Airmen execute the mission and serve the local community outside the gate borders. For more information on STEM programs and the STARBASE Peterson facility, call Patricia Smathers at 556-9500.