Being at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival on opening day was a hoot. I got to talk to a whole bunch of folks. In terms of mass media it was probably not that many, but this was two way conversation and I certainly talked to as many as I could in the 5 or so hours the festival went on.
The most fun is talking to the school children. Many families are here for vacations and some of these kids seem to be suffering from museum-itis. Too much to see, too many things to do. But almost all of them had questions about living and working in space. I think you can guess the most popular question . . .
My question back to many of them is “Do you want to go to space?” Some of the shy little ones wouldn’t answer, a few of the more cautious ones said no, but the vast majority got wide eyed and nodded with enthusiasm. If they said they wanted to go, I passed them a NASA bookmark and told them to read . . . because that is the key. The parents invariably said ‘My child loves to read’. or something like that.
Wow, what a response. Of course, what we really need to do is to reach those kiddos who don’t like to read, or whose parents don’t drag them off to educational trips. Talking with the education folks at NASA HQ and other centers, the space agency does a tremendous job on a shoe string budget at all levels of the educational world to provide educational opportunities, lessons, teacher resources, and unique experiences for students from pre-school to graduate school. Over 60,000 students each year get to directly interact with NASA educational opportunities.
Educating our children starts with capturing their interest and getting them excited. We have a good track record of inspiring young people to study harder and get the education they need to be productive in science and engineering fields. That inspiration is worth its weight in gold!
Gotta go — more fun on the mall this afternoon. If you can get to the Folk Life Festival in Washington in the next two weeks, be sure to stop by the NASA exhibit.