Science Yamma, Lunar Child, & Teachable Moments

By on August 21, 2012 in

As an older person in the CosmoQuest community I like to fly under the radar. To me, blogging is something that younger people do—but, maybe not. As I waited excitedly for Curiosity to land on Mars I thought back to when I was a kid and Sputnik was launched, initiating the beginning of the space race. My friends and I would always be on the lookout for news about space and, although, space exploration is now taken for granted by many, kids still love Space.

When my granddaughter was barely two she looked up at the crescent moon and said in a very concerned voice, “Oh no Yamma, the moon’s broken.”  Of course, the teacher in me couldn’t resist the teachable moment. So, as my son rolled his eyes and reminded me that she was only two, I attempted my best elementary explanation of the phases of the moon. And guess what, it has been a year and she can still remember that the moon looks different during the month and name some phases. Sorry, a Yamma does have to brag a bit. Lunar child’s latest observation is that the sun chases away the moon in the morning. Another teachable moment!

Indeed, kids love astronomy — so our job is to nurture and encourage that interest so that they grow into citizen scientists. They can actually begin contributing while they are in school. If I learned anything after 25 years in the classroom, it was never to underestimate your students.

Recently, as a retired classroom science teacher working on educational materials for teachers, I have been perusing the drafts of the Next Generation Science Standards, looking for astronomy standards. It is still in draft form, but there are not as many as I would like to see and there seems to be a gap between elementary and high school. Since I spent my career mostly in Middle School, I have a special interest in that level. I was disappointed that there does not seem to be much Astronomy targeted for those grade levels. However, I am convinced that we can provide materials to teachers so they can integrate space science into their instruction at all levels and still meet the standards.

But right now, Science Yamma needs to Skype with Lunar child and read about The Cat In the Hat going into space with Thing one and Thing Two. I had no idea. I wonder if NASA knows:

A ship in the sky,

With Thing One and Thing Two,

Is headed to Mars,

Oh, what to do!

What to do!!

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2 Responses to Science Yamma, Lunar Child, & Teachable Moments

  1. John Jaksich August 24, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

    Dear Ellen,

    I must add that you have earned my admiration through your ability to reach out to school age children. I have done some investigating on the state of how reaching children is done in at various professional levels.

    First of all, I am assuming that you have heard of the late Dr. Julian Stanley. If you have not, he was a champion for outside enrichment activities for gifted and disadvantaged children. His major work was published in 1990 and I will just mention it in passing at the end of my post. But the model he established for reaching pre-high school children is used in one form or another throughout much of the U.S. This model is the one which I mentioned in my previous post–it is formally called: Academic Talent Search. In the U.S. it is centered from (I believe John Hopkins University) one location and there are four separate regions of service that cover the lower 48 states.

    The regions are the following:

    (1) Center for Talent Development–Northwestern University
    serving the upper plain states

    (2) Center for Talented Youth–John Hopkins University
    serving the west coast and Arizona–as well as the Atlantic seaboard

    (3) Talent Identification Program –Duke University
    serving the Southern states and Midwest

    (4) Center for Bright Kids–Regional Talent Center
    serving the Mountain states —including Nevada and New Mexico

    Secondly, there is the STEM Education Coalition—this is a Federally funded coalition supporting “science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” STEM centers are found throughout the U.S.

    Thirdly, and perhaps the most reachable to all citizen scientists is this site is the for educators. There is a list of resources at –as well as a comprehensive educator resource centers in the U.S.—including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    I am hoping this is of some assistance to you, Ellen.

    All the best to and yours,

    John A. Jaksich

    Here is the work cited in my post:

    Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Research
    (Houghton Mifflin, 1990)

  2. John Jaksich August 22, 2012 at 1:46 am #


    I cannot help but be excited with you; spreading the excitement of astronomy would be of great importance to all of us at the forum. You mentioned that, ” However, I am convinced that we can provide materials to teachers so they can integrate space science into their instruction at all levels and still meet the standards.”

    In California, at least, certain California State University campuses have summer programs for middle school students in astronomy. It is designed to give them High School credit prior to entering H.S. I am unsure if your state colleges or universities also have such programs, but I can contact my former college adviser who performs such “astronomy outreach.” It would be worthwhile to attempt to launch this type of outreach in other states. Maybe, this grassroots push may work at this level (in other states) if enough of us pulled together. I will be in contact in a few days.