Monday, November 9, 2015

“Mama’s at the telescope, sweetie."

Here's Jane Rigby in her second guest post from LCO:

November 7, 2015

So my kid, who’s almost three, is figuring out that adults do something all day when they go to work.  He understand workplaces, as shown by the following genuine tweet:

But he’s hazy as to what we do at work.  When he asked my wife what I was doing at Magellan on this trip, she replied, “Looking at the stars.”  He paused, then fired back: “I wanna look at stars.”  So Andrea trekked him outside to look at the stars, and a few planes, and a planet, before his bedtime.  He’s been asking every evening.  Except it’s been cloudy at home, so kiddo’s gotten his first taste of being clouded out.

I’ve seen a few colleagues pressuring their kids too hard toward STEM.  I remember one professor demanding that her preschoolers stare into the Celestron telescope I was running at a public event.  They couldn’t see a thing because they were too young to vary the distance between their eye and the crappy departmental eyepiece. “Do you see it?  Do you see Saturn? With the rings?”  The professor was trying to share their passion with their kids, but in such a high-pressure way that I winced.

I’ve overcompensated, perhaps, and so far have only talked with kiddo about science as it comes up organically.  He likes books about dinosaurs and tigers, we lie on our tummies and stare at bugs, and we’re working on the difference between a goose and a crow.  When he asks, “Why dark?”  “Where half moon?”, we’ve tried to give simple but astronomically correct answers.  This has resulted in some surprising leaps of logic on his part, namely:  “Not dark anymore?  Earth not turning?”

Kiddo knows that some of my "work friends” have the job of “fixing rocket ships”, which is my translation into toddler language of, “Worked on several of the missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope.”  I don’t really know how much of that he understands, but I do see him pretend that jungle gyms are either rocket ships or firetrucks, which he then proceeds to pretend to fix.

But, this trip to Magellan has been the first time he’s grasped that my job has something to do with looking at the stars.  I think that’s really cool.

Jane, getting ready to look at the stars.

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