Outreach at Blue Hills Elementary School

BMSIS Young Scientist Shaelyn Silverman led an outreach event at Blue Hills Elementary School in Saratoga, California.

Shaelyn’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 Shaelyn’s impressions below:

Throughout my experience working with Sanjoy Som at NASA Ames, I was deeply inspired by his genuine passion for outreach. Striving to follow in his footsteps, I decided to do an outreach event at my former elementary school Blue Hills. I wanted to target a community to which I could relate in order to inspire the kids to believe in themselves when following their dreams. I especially felt it important to empower the females to be unafraid to pursue a career in the sciences. In order to have fun while accomplishing these goals, I decided to craft a fun, engaging activity to communicate the scale of the Solar System to four individual 1st and 2nd grade classes.

Using an inflatable Sun and the planets, I presented key facts about each celestial object while students eagerly held them and simulated the orbits of the planets by walking around the Sun. I also used a basketball and tennis ball to convey the size comparison of the Earth to our Moon as objects relevant to their daily lives. I was amazed by the sheer capacity of knowledge the students possessed before I even walked through the doors; without my prompting them, the kids excitedly raised their hands to tell me all the facts they knew about the universe, including that the universe is expanding and that the Sun is a giant ball of plasma. We also talked about the different NASA missions that are relevant today, and I taught the students how we use gravitational assists to propel our rockets to distant planets by having the students fly a small space shuttle figure around Jupiter to Pluto.

The students were very engaged and asked many questions throughout each exercise. At the end of each class, I asked the students to raise their hands if they were now interested in space, and the vote was always a unanimous “yes!” I had the kids to relay back to me what they had learned during that session, and was surprised by the amount of information they had retained. Above everything, the most powerful moment of the trip occurred at the end when several girls ran up to me and proudly proclaimed (as they were hugging me) that this activity inspired them to be astronauts when they grow up. Though this is just one community, I feel that the impact my outreach event had on these kids was profound.

During that morning I saw in those kids a pure thirst for knowledge — something that seems to have been long lost amongst my peers. It saddens me to realize that this unadulterated passion for learning is often lost along the way for many, but this recognition has motivated me to target these older communities to help them rediscover that excitement that we all once possessed. Having perceived the true value of outreach, I now strive to structure my future career around impactful experiences like the ones NASA often brings to the community. Indeed, inspiring this next generation of thinkers to be excited about science was an invaluable experience that I will cherish forever.