Experiences with a Space and Science Club in a Low-Income Community in South Texas 2005-01-3101
NASA's mission statement includes the protection of the home planet and a goal to inspire the next generation of explorers. NASA's current vision also includes human exploration of the Moon and Mars. Typically, residents of low-income communities are not directly involved in the space exploration process. Parents of children in low-income communities are inclined to be more interested in the educational components of NASA's activities rather than the technological accomplishments. This paper describes the approach taken to start and support a space and science club in a colonia near the U.S. - Mexico border in South Texas. The club provided a new organizational structure for linking NASA's goals with a low-income community. The structure of the club evolved over the course of three years to reflect the interests and resources of the youth that lived in the colonia. From the beginning, the club organizers were flexible in responding to the unique social and environmental conditions of a colonia. In disadvantaged communities where the incentive to excel in school and to pursue higher education goals can be low, high school drop-out rates are high. The club provided motivation for members to work hard in school so that they can attend college and consider careers in science and engineering. In addition, the club improved the image of NASA within the community. New structures, such as this club, could be developed to improve communication between the high technology space exploration sector and low-income communities for the benefit of both.