Bringing a Taste of NASA to Marjorie H. Tobias Elementary School

BMSIS Young Scientist Christina Cheung led an outreach event at Marjorie H. Tobias Elementary School in Daly City, California.

Christina’s engagement was part of her Communications requirements for the BMSIS Young Scientist Program. BMSIS is continuously committed to engaging the public in the wonders of Space Exploration and the Earth System. Our Young Scientist Program continues this tradition by engaging local communities around the world.

Read Christina’s impressions below:

Being a part of the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, I was given a unique opportunity to take part in a community outreach event. I was approached by a friend, who was a parent helper in their school’s read-a-thon committee, looking to find someone to speak at their school as a special guest to talk about NASA and science as a career. What started off as somewhat of an unlikely event to pull off, turned into a school-wide event with two assemblies and 400 students.

Before having to present, I was already faced with challenges as I prepared for my presentation to these students. First, the grades that I was presenting were K to 2nd and 3rd to 5th, all of which have drastically different levels of understanding and engagement. I knew very early on in my preparations that I would have to prepare different presentations for each assembly and find ways to keep them all engaged. Second, I was also tasked with finding a way to incorporate the importance of reading. After all, I was speaking for a read-a-thon event that encouraged students to read. I decided to choose two of my favorite books growing up, which were The BFG by Roald Dahl and The Giver by Louis Lowry and even went home to find my childhood paperback copies of those treasured books to show to the students. I made it a point to emphasize the importance of reading for a scientist and also how it has shaped my life. Most importantly, I also wanted to use this platform as a way to inspire the young students to take part in STEM.

The days before the presentation, I was definitely nervous. However, with the help of some colleagues and friends, I was able to practice and put together the two presentations for the school event. When I first arrived at the school, I was greeted by the rest of the read-a-thon committee. They were very helpful in coordinating the event and answering all the questions I had throughout the process. We got set up and situated and soon enough the first set of students, the K to 2nd graders, started to come in. My first impressions of them were that they were so young, but so enthusiastic to learn. As I spoke to them with excitement I got the same feelings from them. Even through the lab safety activity I did with a few participants that included nitrile gloves and shaving cream, they were all very attentive and well behaved. With a few extra minutes, I took the risk of having a Q&A session with them. Some of the questions were intuitive; others were less so, but all in all it was enjoyable to engage with them. For the next assembly of 3rd to 5th graders, I knew these students would be more interested in the science and details. They asked great questions and even asked some that stumped me. I appreciated their genuine curiosity to learn more.

All in all, the students in both assemblies were very intrigued about NASA and space exploration. I enjoyed the Q&A portions of each assembly the most just because it allowed me to interact with each student. It allowed me to not only give an answer to their question, but also the validate and encourage their curiosity to learn. I also wanted to be an example to the young girls in the audience, knowing that the statistics for their involvement in STEM is low. I don’t know the thoughts that went through their young minds, but I know I have done my job if I have inspired at least one student to know that they can definitely pursue science as a career.