AAHS Choir Performs at Challenger Learning Center Reopening


Sophomore Samantha Van Arsdale and sophomore Kaylee Stone rehearsing "Bright Clear Day."

On January 28, 1986, tragedy struck as the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded. Following this heart-wrenching event, community leaders discussed and finalized the opening of the Challenger Learning Center in 2002; however, the center closed for remodeling. Being such a success, a second Challenger Learning Center would be reopened to take place of the old one in Colorado Springs.

It was opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019. Administration from both the Challenger Learning Center and Air Academy High School extended the invitation for students to perform.

“We were invited by Dr. Gary Coutler, Dr. Mark Hatchell, and Mr. Dan Olson,” said choir director Austina Lee.

Lee jumped into action preparing the choir, orchestra, and band participants within the first days of school. Learning their songs, Bright Clear Day and The Astronaut Train, many students also learned new information about this event.

The flight commander for the Challenger Space Shuttle was Francis (Dick) Richard Scobee. He was an American pilot, engineer and astronaut.

“Dick Scobee’s life was enamored by a flight and becoming an astronaut,” said senior Zachary Rytting.

“There were teachers going to space, there were people that wanted to teach from somewhere other than Earth,” said sophomore Kaylee Stone.

Lee’s motivation and excitement has influenced the participants to learn more about the Challenger explosion, but putting joy into a solemn event is difficult. Many students thought that this opportunity was one that we would all remember for years to come. Learning the story of the Challenger has given some of them a perspective on how important this experience is to the choir.

“It’s a really unique opportunity to shed light in a dark era of history, to bring music to a place of sad time, and kind of make the best of it,” said junior Cam Bauman.

The band and orchestra directors, Joe Musick and Vanessa Lyttle, helped Lee decide which groups would accompany her to this event and perform. They agreed upon small sections of the band and orchestra, mostly winds, strings, and percussion players. With that in mind, Lee chose the Chamber Singers choir to perform alongside the agreed sections.

While there was some excitement, Lee and many students felt other things were more important to be for this performance. Many felt that there was more feeling about the invitation to participate in this event and believed it was more important than the excitement.

“It’s a cool opportunity to bring art to this place and I feel honored,” said Bauman.

“I am thrilled and honored we get to be a part of this,” said Lee.

As the choir prepares to perform, they’ve been asked to think about the value that this has to them and what value this center has opening in our community. Many of them had mentioned leadership skills being needed for their future prior to learning about this event, others thought that it would lead to a higher understanding of space travel.

The Challenger Space Shuttle replica being showcased at the Grand Reopening of the Challenger Learning Center.

“The Challenger Center is not just a fun activity for middle schoolers, it’s an opportunity to learn about space travel and why we’re still striving towards it,” said Rytting.

Some of the choir students even went through the first Challenger Learning Center missions, learning about space travel while they were in middle school. They received the opportunity to learn about the mission but also run their own simulated projects of missions for space travel. Students, such as Kaylee Stone, had the opportunity to also learn some leadership skills through the Challenger center.

“I’ve been to the Challenger Learning Center before. I’ve done projects and leadership building skills there,” said Stone.

As the choir prepared for this performance, they also went through two rehearsals at the institution, one on Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, the other Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. Not only would they be joined by the orchestra and band students, they would also be joined by Laura Husband, daughter of Columbia Shuttle commander Rick Husband, for a performance of America the Beautiful

The experience was exhilarating and filled with new opportunity; it was one that would remain important in the lives of the attendees and the generations to come.