As part of my effort to unite all of my different pen names under one banner, I’m taking advantage of “Throwback Thursday” to repost some of my favorite blog posts from my alter egos’ accounts. The goal is to post every Thursday, although, thanks to my poor memory, the reality has been much more sporadic… XD With all the news about Mars this week, it only seemed fitting to flash back to this post, which recounts the inspiration that led to my first book, Fourth World, in the first place!
Original post date: March 1, 2013
Beth Revis has declared this month NASA appreciation month on her blog, which sounds like a great idea to me ;-D I’ve been looking for an excuse to talk about my appreciation for them for awhile.
It’s no secret that I adore outer space. Like, a lot. Loving NASA goes hand in hand with that. But I learned a new appreciation for NASA last August, when the Curiosity rover touched down on Mars.
As I’ve mentioned before, my day job is an elementary school science teacher*. The landing of the rover made perfect timing for me to teach my students about Mars, as well as about NASA. Every day that week I began my lesson with a different grade level, starting by showing them these videos that outlined Curiosity’s landing procedure, and the exciting Curiosity Has Landed video. Afterward, they built their own “Curiosity rovers” out of craft sticks.
Each day, I felt like I was seeing the videos for the first time all over again as I watched the expressions on my students’ faces. Their eyes were so round, they couldn’t tear them away from the screen. They’d gasp, and whisper, and shriek excitedly, whether they were in second grade or sixth. When the videos ended, they had question after question, and they wanted to see the video again, and they had to tell all their friends. It made me so happy to see them so excited about this.
All that week, and for weeks following, I’d have kids from different grade levels running up to me with new questions about Mars, NASA, and space. A set of three third-grade boys really amazed me with their dedication—the group of them had gone home and started looking up information about Mars and NASA’s previous rover missions. They were spending their computer lab time researching, too, rather than playing games like their classmates. Within a week, the trio knew more about NASA than I did, and each day they’d approach me during recess or science class with questions and tidbits about not only Curiosity, but Spirit, Opportunity, and even the Viking program.
By the end of that week, I couldn’t even count the number of kids who said they wanted to work for NASA when they grew up. Of course there was the usual “I want to be an astronaut, I want to go to Mars,” but I was surprised when one little boy said to me, “Oh, I don’t want to go into space. I want to work for mission control! I want to build the robots, and then sit in the control room and watch when they land, like in the video!” It melted my heart.
I think my kids’ reaction to Curiosity was best summed up by one of the fourth graders, who said to me (as he happily constructed the “flying saucer” MSL spacecraft to safely house his rover for the journey to Mars out of white paper), “I love NASA! I never heard of them before today, but I love them. And do you know why? Because they build robots to send to Mars to teach us things! They’re the best!”
* NOTE (from the future!): I left my teaching job at the end of that school year, when I moved from California to Oregon. I loved educating, but I love being a full-time writer even more!