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| June 2021 |

NASA awards grant to Montana Learning Center

NASA has awarded a $90,000 Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline (NESSP) grant to the Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake in Helena, Mont. to boost outreach and educational opportunities across the state. The goal is to engage Montana students and teachers with cutting-edge NASA science and improve students’ and teachers’ STEM skills.

NASA has long been a supporter of the MLC, helping to fund programs that provide students and teachers with opportunities to interact with experts in a variety of STEM fields. These programs also help students develop their collaboration and communications skills, their strategic and tactical planning, implementation and documentation skills, and other skills necessary for success in today’s educational and work environments.

Funds will support the MLC’s efforts in five key areas, including the acclaimed Western Aerospace Scholars program, online training for Montana K-12 science teachers, teacher training to operate the MLC’s remote telescope, a two-day NASA Student Robotics Challenge workshop for middle and high school teachers, and a partnership with Montana libraries to offer patrons a unique citizen science opportunity.

  • Western Aerospace Scholars: The Western Aerospace Scholars program was developed by the University of Washington and Museum of Flight in Seattle to encourage interest in aerospace fields among high school sophomores and juniors. Montana students can earn college credits online through UW and then complete an on-site residency at the MLC. This will support an estimated 40 students statewide. 
  • Online Montana Science Teacher Standards Training: The grant will provide online training to an estimated 50 K-12 science teachers in Montana, with a focus on understanding and implementing NASA science, Next Generation Science Standards, and three-dimensional science teaching in the classroom. 
  • Online Science Teacher Telescope Training: MLC offers online remote telescope training to middle and high school science teachers in Montana, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Upon completion, an estimated 30 teachers will be able and encouraged to incorporate the remote telescope into their curriculums and use it to conduct meaningful astronomical research with their students. 
  • NASA Student Robotics Challenges: The MLC will host an on-campus two-day workshop for Montana middle and high school science teachers to learn about and implement the annual NASA Student Robotics Challenges in their classrooms. MLC estimates that 18 teachers across the state will participate. 
  • Citizen Science Program for Libraries: The MLC has developed a citizen science program to partner with dozens of libraries across Montana. Participants will collect data about light pollution and provide information to the international database, “Globe at Night.”

These activities are supported by NASA through an agreement with Northwest Earth and Space Sciences Pipeline under award no. UWSC12714.

The $90,000 grant brings the total NASA funding to the MLC to $115,000 for the year, which is the result of previous ongoing funding through other NASA partners, including the University of Washington, the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Montana Space Grant Consortium, and Montana State University in Bozeman.

For more information, please contact Ryan Hannahoe, Executive Director of the Montana Learning Center, at or 406-475-3638.


The Montana Learning Center at Canyon Ferry Lake offers youth summer camps in a variety of STEM fields, teacher learning opportunities, and the state’s premier astronomy program, featuring the largest public-use telescope in Montana. Montana Learning Center and Montana State University partner to facilitate NASA’s Northwest Earth & Space Science Pipeline in Montana, an outreach effort to strengthen aerospace education and outreach. The Center boasts a picturesque lakeside setting, which is ideal for exploring Montana’s geology and night sky.

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