Crystal Harden wins state award for STEM education | Morehead Planetarium and Science Center
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Crystal Harden wins state award for STEM education

This news release was prepared and distributed by the North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center. For more information, please contact Russ Campbell at 919-667-8866.



Watch a video about Crystal Harden here.

Chapel Hill, N.C. -- April 29, 2013 -- Crystal Harden, director of external programs at Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, received the Outstanding Informal Educator Award in Science, Mathematics and Technology Education for her work promoting teaching and learning through a non-traditional environment. The North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center (SMT) presented its annual awards on Saturday to honor teachers, students and organizations throughout the state that have made an impact on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and development.

As Morehead's director of external programs, Harden oversees professional development training for K-12 teachers, off-site summer enrichment programs for students, two mobile laboratories and a portable planetarium, and more. Her outreach efforts and programs span the entire state serving 13,000 students annually.

Morehead’s formal science education initiative to support pre-college students and teachers, known as DESTINY Traveling Science Learning Program (Delivering Edge-cutting Science Technology and Internet across North Carolina for Years to come), offers two fully-equipped mobile labs, which travel through N.C. accommodating groups up to 24 students. In an effort to advance STEM education, students benefit from skill building and exposure to jobs in science, biotechnology, health and other related fields.

“The Outstanding Informal Educator Award recognizes the individual who takes science and math education outside of the classroom to engage students in a new and different way,” said SMT Center President and CEO Dr. Sam Houston. “Crystal Harden’s dedication to students and teachers is exemplary of SMT’s mission to educate and support future STEM practitioners and helps to further North Carolina’s prestige in education.”

STEM jobs are emerging as the career front-runner with increased job creation, higher salaries and expanded innovation in technology. The SMT Center recognizes that in order for North Carolina to continue to compete within the south and the rest of the country in the coming years, skills in science, math and technology are an essential element.

According to the recently released first-ever comprehensive STEM ScoreCard, STEM jobs will be a major job contributor across North Carolina and the country, seeing an increase of at least 17 percent over the next five years. It is more important than ever to engage students in math and science and develop their STEM skills from a young age.

The award recipients were nominated by their colleagues as outstanding champions of STEM education in the state of North Carolina. For more information about the SMT Center, award winners or additional STEM resources, visit


About SMT

The North Carolina Science, Mathematics and Technology (SMT) Education Center’s mission is to systematically improve performance in science, mathematics, and technology pre K-12 education as a means of providing all children in North Carolina with the necessary knowledge and skills in science, mathematics and technology to have successful careers, be good citizens and advance the economy of the state.