NASA Partnership Photo Provided

Choctaw Nation Forms Relationship with NASA to Support Science Education for Students

Select students to speak to astronauts on Feb. 1

Published January 4, 2023

DURANT, Okla. – The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) and NASA have developed a new relationship which will offer school students more direct insight to Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology (STEM) education.

Staff at NASA will collaborate with CNO’s Education Department on programs involving science and technology.

The first element of the relationship will involve a video uplink connection to NASA astronauts, allowing students to speak directly to those aboard the space station. The program will provide unique, authentic experiences designed to enhance student learning, performance, and interest in STEM. Astronauts living in space on the orbiting laboratory communicate with NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston 24 hours a day through the Near Space Network Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS).

Approximately 1,500 students will submit questions, with 20 to be selected and asked of the astronauts. The astronauts will have opening and closing remarks in addition to answering the questions live during the 20-minute uplink to be conducted at Bloomer Sullivan Arena on the campus at Southeastern University on February 1.

“The downlink is a great opportunity for students and tribal members to get a firsthand look at what scientists, physicians, and educators do in space and inspire the next generation of students to pursue STEM careers,” said Joy Tribbey, program manager for the Choctaw Nation.

Students selected were part of an application process and were chosen based on the desire to participate, curriculum alignment with STEM and NASA Downlinks goals, and how they will prepare and utilize the curriculum for the event, Tribbey said. The chosen schools receive NASA curriculum and all supplies through Project Pehlichi (purchased with federal funds from the Department of Education). The classrooms will utilize the lessons and curriculum for a full school year (22-23), including professional development from NASA and elements needed for the lessons.

The schools selected to participate are all Choctaw Nation Head Start and Preschool facilities, Jones Academy Elementary and seven public schools: McAlester’s Puterbaugh Middle School, Battiest, Valliant; Clayton/Crain Elementary, Kinta Elementary, and Canadian.

About The Choctaw Nation

The Choctaw Nation is the third-largest Indian Nation in the United States with more than 225,000 tribal members and 12,000-plus associates. This ancient people has an oral tradition dating back over 13,000 years. The first tribe over the Trail of Tears, its historic reservation boundaries are in the southeast corner of Oklahoma, covering 10,923 square miles. The Choctaw Nation’s vision, “Living out the Chahta Spirit of faith, family and culture,” is evident as it continues to focus on providing opportunities for growth and prosperity.


Contact Kristina Humenesky for any media relations needs at [email protected].