NEWTON, NJ - Forty fourth grade students enrolled in the Project Launch Newton after school program banished the winter doldrums by exploring the solar system, using the techniques they learned to create their own imaginary planet and offer presentations to each other about their findings.   The after school program, which emphasizes the skills needed to succeed in STEM-based careers, rewarded those students who completed the solar system project and who had attended the program for thirty days with their own, brand new telescope.

“This project was designed to teach children critical thinking and reasoning skills, along with the facts they learned about the solar system,” explains Darah Drexler, Project Site Coordinator for the Project Launch Newton program at the Merriam Avenue School.  “Students investigated the planets in our own solar system by using research methods designed to enhance digital literacy.  The children then designed their own planet and collaborated with each other to create their own solar systems.”

Project Launch Newton is a free afterschool enrichment program conducted by Project Self-Sufficiency in the Merriam Avenue and Halsted Middle Schools for children in grades 4 – 8.   Students receive homework help and a healthy snack, and then participate in a variety of activities centered on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) themes.   Physical activities and other topics are also incorporated into the curriculum.   Monthly Family Fun Nights will allow parents and siblings to enjoy dinner and learn about recent program activities and upcoming events. 

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Project Launch Newton is funded with federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) grant funds through a grant agreement with the New Jersey Department of Education.  For information about the summer enrichment program, call Project Self-Sufficiency at 973-940-3500, or visit the program’s website,