Last week, I gave my first outreach lecture in just over a year. I'm not doing much outreach any more as my schedule is pretty full, but I made an exception for this Year 4 teacher. I've known her for a few years now, from when she worked at a charity called IntoUniversity that runs courses for children whose parents haven't been to university. She was always fantastic at laying the groundwork for an outreach event, arranging for a big audience and ensuring that the children understood that what was happening was quite special. This is a totally underrated skill in outreach and in general, I think. I knew that the students would be studying space and the solar system in their curriculum, that they would know of my visit in advance and thus that they would be able to extract the most from it.
Anyway, this time I unintentionally pushed this poor lass to her limits. I turned up a week before I was scheduled to do so. It was entirely my fault as I'd put the correct time but the wrong date into my Outlook calendar.
She rallied beautifully. It helped that, superstar teacher that she is, she had already been preparing the students and teachers for my arrival ("We're getting a NASA engineer to visit us!"). Her composure outwardly unrattled, she managed to get all the Year 4 and Year 5 teachers to rearrange their lessons, and bring their children down for the lecture. I'll never forgot those 180 excited faces staring up at me from where they were squooshed together on her classroom floor. They hung on my every word and pelted me with questions for 15 minutes at the end. Then they applauded me. Some of them stood up. Some of them were cheering and whooping. This went on for almost two minutes. I have never felt so embarrassed and so pleased in my life. As they were leaving they came up to me individually - one girl just so she could hug my leg.
"Doctor Nanila," said one smiling eight-year-old boy, "How do I become an engineer?"
"Doctor Nanila," asked a serious-faced child, "If you could go into space and live on your dream world, what would it look like?"
"Doctor Nanila," said a brown-haired girl, "I saw the blood moon through my binoculars! Do you know, it was the closest the moon has been to the Earth this year?"
I have permission to post the photos the teacher took from the event. Without further ado, me and her Year 4s doing the Vulcan hand salute. Please note that I'm wearing an ESA Rosetta t-shirt. Sadly the design is on the back.
Live long and prosper! Peace! Five! Uh...fingers!
Look at their li'l rapt faces. B'AWWW.
Put your hands up!
This is Mr 8, who knows he's going to be an engineer.
They've sent a bunch of handmade thank-you cards to my work, which I'll pick up next week. They're going to make me cry at my desk. <333333
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