When the phone call came that I was invited to teach an aerospace lesson at my son’s camp, I was pumped! What could be better than seeing my boy, being in the mountains, and teaching kids? I have traveled more this summer than anytime in my life, and I admit, I was ready to stay home. I did not want my dog and cat to see the luggage come out again. But it is hard to hide one’s feelings from my children with fur. I heard their whispers: “She’s leaving us again. And we don’t even get airport gifts.” Sigh.
But things fell into place. Since the students/campers would be out studying constellations, it was decided that I would present lunar science. Cool! I have been in love with the moon most of my life! But time was of the essence. I knew what I needed to pull this off. Hello, NASA! Soon a dear gal named Bridget, from NASA’s Johnson Space Center was my new BFF, as she located my security info and got the Lunar Soil Sample, Disk #71 shipped to camp. It had been a while since I had gotten the famed ‘moon rocks’ and trying to get anything done with the government in a hurry is real work. But it all fell into place. Kind of like the stars being in alignment.
Until the night before my presentation. I couldn’t sleep. It had been several years since I had taught aerospace/lunar science. What if I forgot my facts? What if the kids were bored? I mean, after all, they were thrilled to be out of school, learning in a camp setting. Would I come across as some old lady discussing an Apollo mission that even their parents barely remembered? And what about moon rocks? These kids came from an ‘underserved’ school district in LA. With smog and light pollution, they barely saw stars—even if they were allowed out at night in their precarious neighborhoods. This teacher was anxious. Why did I agree to this? I could be home, sleeping in my own bed, with no thought of the moon. But then, I am not a fan of missed opportunity. And this was big!
The kids were busy at camp with archery, fishing, ropes courses, soccer, etc. And then, as part of their daily rotation, they came into my room, an area off the big lodge. The theme was set: “I Held the Moon in My Hands” was how I attempted to create a sense of wonder about this natural satellite of Earth. I started my babbling and promised if they listened well, I would answer the number one question kids ask astronauts: “How do you go to the bathroom in space?” I had them. Perhaps you have wondered the same thing: umm….how do we go to the bathroom in space?
And soon the room became electric with student-instructor exchange. Their hands went up, my anxiety went down. The ‘lunar facts neurons’ began to fire with an enthusiasm I have when in the presence of young minds. They asked. I answered. The little guys marveled and soon, I had never left the classroom. They held the Lunar Disk and studied it and never ever uttered, “Boring!” Parents took photos with their cell phones, and said, “Can I have a turn?” Parents who needed translation from English to Spanish, were eager to hear the counselor tell them facts I had shared about “Yo Tengo los Luna en Mi Manos.”
The moon belongs to all of us. You can gaze up at it in any language. It is the same moon that Abraham Lincoln looked at, the same moon the Greeks gazed upon–and named the dark patches seas; the same one that Apollo astronauts left their footprints on–and the same one Columbus navigated by. The moon looks down on the rich or poor. Colts player, Andrew Luck gets no luckier moon. Beyonce and Frank Sinatra have seen–and sung–about this one moon. President Obama has shared this same moon with President George Washington. The person you will marry, as I tell the kids, will gaze at this same moon. But perhaps, one day, our great grandchildren will wake up on the moon—just as we wake up on a new continent. It is a possibility; youth are ready to go. And especially this group of kids. They had witnessed the space shuttle, Endeavour, come through the street, right by their school, as it was being taken to the museum. I could have talked about the space shuttle for another hour—that is how much they wanted to learn about space exploration.
But enough of that. This teacher is just so very thankful that the God that created this Earth and our Moon, smiled on me as I dragged out every tool in my box to make this lesson work. And ever thankful that my son had confidence in his mother to revisit her role as an educator.
I hope with all my heart, that when the kids from 109th Street Elementary in LA, see that full moon, they will look at their hands and smile. They did indeed hold the moon in their hands– and this teacher under their spell.
(Thank you Canyon Creek Sports Camp and the Harold Robinson Foundation for an awesome experience at ‘the Creek’–unforgettable for us all.)