Sunday, December 29, 2013

have a great day being a scientist!

i have visited a few classrooms of 7-10 year old students this holiday season to talk about the solar system and what it's like being a scientist.  so many fantastic things happened during and since those visits that i think i will post several stories about them.

a little of the crazy eye, but look at all the enthusiastically raised hands! (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)
i'm constantly impressed by the eagerness of the kids to answer questions, ask questions, and share stories.  they want to tell me how something in their life relates to something i've said about the universe.   and they're so sharp!

the 8 year olds are still sympathetic towards pluto not being a planet any more, despite the fact that it was reclassified to "dwarf planet" status before they were born!   it shows how strongly families and society influence what these kids know and how they behave.

Talking with my hands again.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)
the 10 year old classes listened to the solar system news with interest, felt satisfied learning why pluto isnt a planet anymore, and then got really excited about the existence of planets around stars other than our sun!  then they asked questions about dark matter and black holes and the expanding universe!?!  certainly keeping me on my toes!  :)

some of my favourite questions are about planetary moons.  one that i do not have a good answer for is "why is ours just called "the moon" when all the other moons in the solar system have interesting names like mimas or titan?"  i mentioned that ours has a name in different languages, Luna, for example but in english it just received the definite article distinction (no, i didnt actually say the "definite article" bit).

the students also loved the idea that one of saturn's moons, mimas, looks like the death star from star wars!

Death star moon! (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)
i felt a bit like a rock star after the talk as kids swarmed me with more questions and stories.   the girl in this photo is looking a bit skeptical, which means i've either done my job right or she's just annoyed that it's not her turn to ask a question yet!

Endless questions and stories :)  (Photo Credit: Jeff Shaefer)

the wonderful teachers from each class i talked to had students write thank you letters and draw pictures for me.  i have read over these adorable stacks of letters so many times since receiving them.  absolutely the best present i received this year!    here are a few favorites :)


heroineworshipper said...

That is a scary stare. Must be excessive airline food.

Mohan Babu said...

It is great to know how you spread the word on space to young minds. stars

Chuck Magee said...

"The Moon" is just like using "The Planets" to describe our solar system.

When it was named, nobody had any idea that things went around anything else. Even after heliocentrism, there was nothing that went around some other celestial light aside from the sun until Gallileo found his moons. And by then the name "Moon" had stuck.

John said...

Dear Amanda,
It's great to see Prof Astronomers conversing with young minds.
May I suggest linking up with amateur societies in the regions that you visit.
The majority of members have an extensive knowledge and understanding of astronomy and are able to converse with people of all ages.
They would also be able to supply telescopes for an observing night, after your talk.

Cheers, John Rombi
Speaker Liaison, MAS