outReaching the new generation of planetary scientists

Hello readers!! This past month Sarah, Mark and myself have had the pleasure of being involved in two secondary school visits to SEAES, both year 8 classes. Now I say pleasure but being both mine and Marks first school visits, let’s not hide the fact that the prospect of holding the attention of a class of 25 12-13 year olds for any period of time was somewhat terrifying.

I think the children enjoyed seeing a close up of the famous orange soil found at the Apollo 17 site.

I think the children enjoyed seeing a close up of the famous orange soil found at the Apollo 17 site (Image: NASA)

Our session focused upon a few key topics surrounding the how and the why we study the Moon and meteorites and how we can use these to answer some of the fundamental questions of planetary science. It was interactive right from the get go. It’s amazing some of the facts that the children came out with about the planets and how the Solar system formed. A few things I had to look up myself. And some of the questions they asked were things I’d never even thought about. We even had some fighting the cause for Pluto to become a planet again!

Both classes were very interested in hearing our lab experiences, especially learning about the lasers. Between you and me I think we have a few in the running to be new RELAXers…watch out Mark and Sarah!!  Also they were eager to hear about our stories from meeting a moon walker…talking about moon Olympics and possible alien footsteps during the Apollo 16 mission.

The Gibeon (IVA) iron meteorite was found in Namibia in 1836. The criss-crossing features are known as a Widmanstatten pattern although the children seem to think it was a computer chip!!!

The Gibeon (IVA) iron meteorite was found in Namibia in 1836. The criss-crossing features are known as a Widmanstatten pattern although the children seem to think it was a computer chip!!!

Realising how much you understand about your subject when trying to explain it in not so technical terms is a great learning curve and I’d recommend events like this to everyone. They are very fun and you learn so much by doing them. I hope both classes enjoyed it as much as we did 🙂

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