In this season where longer nights outlast the daytime hours, many celebrations and legends abound.
Most notably in our culture, Halloween and the Day of the Dead both reference passings, remembrances, and other worldliness. We honor and give symbolism to things that are unknown and powerful, perhaps unexplainable and mysterious, and sometimes dangerous. This can make things feel spooky and scary.
This September’s “super blood moon” – a total lunar eclipse during a time when our moon was closest to the earth – could seem like one of these “spooky” moments, if we didn’t know it was coming and why it happens. But through science, we can predict it. And we understand that it’s caused by the moon passing through the shadow of the earth, and that the light scattered by the earth’s atmosphere gives the moon a rusty red color.
Now, imagine you’re with a team that has ventured beyond Earth, beyond the Moon, and on to the next planet further from the sun – our neighbor the rusty red planet Mars. Things on the surface get out of control, your team must lift of the planet without you, and now you are suddenly left stranded with no hope for a rescue.
Now that’s scary stuff!
That is the story behind the film “The Martian”, which takes the work NASA and others have done exploring Mars and extends it into fiction set in the 2030s, when NASA astronauts are regularly traveling to Mars and living on the surface.
In the story, astronaut Mark Watney is stranded alone on Mars after his team’s mission must suddenly be aborted. He has only supplies for 30 days, yet any rescue mission from Earth could take years. How does he face such a gravely scary situation? With grit. Smarts. Determination. Imagination. And science! Mark has paid attention to his surroundings, had good relationships with people, and knows how deeply important communication is. What situations do kids in your program face that require these skills?
We can turn some “spooky”, scary moments into positive learning experiences by developing knowledge about them, and growing skills to deal with new situations, building on what we already know. Across NASA, dozens of people are already working on the technologies humans will need when they begin to explore Mars. Learn about them at here.
How do you help your kids explore their potential, and grow beyond their fears?
You can take your kids on an afterschool exploration in bringing aspects of community, science, and art to imagine and design a community on Mars. The “Imagine Mars” project is a hands-on, STEM-based project that asks students to work with NASA scientists and engineers in their design, and express their ideas through the arts and humanities, integrating 21st Century skills. Sponsored by NASA and the National Endowment for the Arts, Imagine Mars is designed for out-of-school time project-based learning.
You can also beat the spooks this time of year with some out of this world, uplifting inspiration – check out the music video “Drag Me Down” from the pop band “One Direction”:
With grit, smarts, determination, imagination – and science, we can build a future with our kids that is based less on fear and more on inspiration. Let’s make it so!
For breakfast today, I powered my inspiration with a healthy, hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, cooked in a little olive oil, and a big glass of OJ.
Photo credit: NASA/Rami Daud
Author Profile: @leslielowes