Middle School Outreach in Turkey

BMSIS Young Scientist Selen Çetin visited a high school in Istanbul, Turkey for a space research outreach event.

Selen’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 Selen’s impressions below:

As a person who grew up in İstanbul, Turkey, I have encountered several problems throughout my educational life driven by the state of mind of the other people, mostly my family. First, I wanted to be a painter, they told me that it could only be a hobby. I wanted to study molecular biology and genetics, they told me I wouldn’t be able to find a job in Turkey. Being a pilot was too dangerous, being an engineer was too masculine, being a teacher lacked life quality, and so on.

Likewise, when a child says “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up.”, the parents mostly say that it’s a very bad idea or just that it’s not possible and that’s the end of the conversation. That is why, I got the idea of visiting Ataşehir Middle School, the public middle school that I have also attended for eight years including the primary education and trying to show the young students of 8th grade that whatever they want to do in their lives, it could be helpful for space research.

The lecture was titled “Applications of Science”, lectured by Zahide Özkaşıkcı, who has been teaching middle school science classes for 38 years. It was an 8th grade class of 25 bright students. After a brief introduction on space exploration, and why we need it, I started asking questions in order to see their point of view. They mostly want to become architect, doctor, psychologist, engineer, cook, businessman, advertiser or interpreter. I was really surprised to get these answers, because some of them seemed to be more liberal-minded than we used to be, and more sophisticated thanks to the Internet age. They all saw the movie The Martian, knew about the latest developments about Mars, heard about space missions, and several legendary stories about them.

Shortly after I told them that they could all contribute in space research by using the skills that they will gain in their future jobs, they suddenly became very interested in the life in outer space and then they were the ones to ask all the questions: If there is no water in space, how do the astronauts drink water? Do they really take pills in space instead of eating regular food? How can it be possible to live on Mars, isn’t it too cold for us? What can I do as an advertiser, how can it be related to space?

I answered their questions as well as I can and in the end we watched two influential videos: one was Carl Sagan’s famous speech Pale Blue Dot, and the other was Image Worth Spreading: Cosmic Eye. They enjoyed them so much that they asked for more videos like these. The class that welcomed me at the beginning was definitely different than the class after 45 minutes. It is an amazing feeling to see this change and I hope I had a positive influence on them.

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