Astronaut Nicholas Patrick enjoys comments from KPMS students Natlie Pierson, Max Goins and Alana Willms, each of whose experiments were chosen to fly in space as part of the “Cubes in Space” program. Photo by Hugh McMillan, KP News

In 2004, Key Peninsula Middle School became the first NASA Explorer School in Washington. It was to be for three years. Somehow, KPMS students under the direction of founder, teacher Kareen Borders, and a crew of dedicated teachers, excelled and caught the attention of NASA which added another year to the relationship. Last month, NASA and KPMS celebrated their 10th anniversary.

KPMS teachers have flown in the “weightless” atmosphere simulated by NASA aircraft. With their students they’ve visited NASA sites and participated in activities most can only imagine.

KPMS students’ experiments have flown in space on NASA vehicles –– including the very last shuttle flight. The kids have been in NASA facilities and worked with bona fide astronauts.

Borders is very proud of her “aerospace students.” She said they are curious, respectful, innovative and inclusive.

“I’m not surprised their proposals were selected from worldwide competition to fly experiments to the edge of space in the “Cubes in Space” program.

“We are fortunate to have so many partners in science, technology, engineering and math industries who provide mentor and collaboration opportunities that strengthen college and career readiness of our students,” Borders said.

Former NASA students returned for the anniversary celebration.

Among current the NASA students, Natalie Pierson said that being in aerospace lets her learn her favorite subject: “Aerospace.”

Student Hailie Devers said feels that “it would be really cool to have a job at NASA.”

“My favorite part of the assembly is when Nicholas Patrick talked about life in space and what it looked like because it got me to imagine what I would do up there and what I would do in those situations,” said Lilli Roberts.

Donald G. James of NASA Ames Research Center said he was “thrilled” to celebrate KPMS’ anniversary.

“As part of the team that established the Explorer School Program, it was gratifying to see bright students and KPMS alumni doing what we dreamed: becoming this nation’s future explorers and innovators. KPMS is a shining example of what’s possible when exceptional teachers and administrators, a supportive community and a world class agency like NASA come together,” James said.

Dan Newell, assistant superintendent of public instruction, the agency which oversees all 2230 public K-12 schools in Washington, said he noticed several things that put KPMS in a select group at the top: “Teachers, administrators, office professionals, parents and community members want students to know that they are there for them at all times. I’ve been in front of hundreds of thousands of middle school students and have never felt as respected as I did at this NASA assembly.

“Students are having doors opened for them which will let them be in careers they are truly interested in. KPMS students aren’t just exposed to the NASA Explorer Program, they’ve stayed with it a decade. The culture of being curious is ingrained in this school system,” Newell said.

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