Saturday, February 5, 2011

"This thing is older than mommy!"

This past Monday evening, I drove down to the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy in Colorado Springs to share my love of astrobiology with some middle school students and their parents.  The Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy had been a failing middle school, when the Space Foundation stepped in and gave the school a purpose: to teach children the basic american middle school curriculum, using aerospace as a tool for inspiration.  The school is doing much better now.

The Festival of Science is kind of like a symposium for local people involved in the sciences to communicate with students from the school.  There was an astronomical society there, a robotics group, the Cheyenne mountain zoo, the girl scouts, the boy scouts, and several other presenters who had hands on activities and displays to get the students thinking about science.  I went down on behalf of the CU Astrobiology Club.  I also brought two members of CU-SEDS so they could share some cool stuff with the students.

At my Astrobiology Club table, I had some information about the Arecibo radio message that was sent to the M13 star cluster in 1974, a picture of organic molecules found in space, a picture of the ALH84001 meteorite and a micrograph of the debated "martian" in that meteorite that was announced in 1996.  I also had a Giant Microbe version of the "Martian Life" (pretty much a stuffed-animal worm), and I had one of my chondrite meteorites.  It was fun to talk with middle school students about extraterrestrial life and show them some of the things I had brought.

The best part of the evening was when a mother and three young children walked up to my table.  I was talking to the mother about my meteorite, informing her about the current theory of how our solar system formed, and so I told her that my meteorite likely formed over 4.5 billion years ago.  She took in her hand and showed it to her children saying, "Look guys, this thing is older than mommy!"  One of her children went wide-eyed.  I started laughing pretty hard.  She looked at me and said, "I have to put it in their perspective".  I guess everything really is relative when it comes to our understanding of our universe around us.

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