|Day 79/365: Cassini Outreach
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
I went to a girls' school today to talk to 50 Year 6 students (aged 10-11) about the Cassini mission and the work I do. To say "it went well" would be an understatement. I talked for about 30 minutes and then spent the next 40 minutes answering their questions. They would have kept me longer, but their teacher insisted they go to their last lesson of the day. A group of them also asked me to sign some of the lithographs of Saturn that I'd brought to give them.
This was all pretty brilliant on its own, but then their teacher told me the following story. I had previously visited in November of last year to give a similar talk to the Year 5 students at this school. One of the girls in the class had, up until my visit, been adamant for a couple of years that she was going to be a hairdresser. After my visit, however, she had gone home and told her mother, "Mummy, I've changed my mind. I'm not going to be a hairdresser."
"Oh?" replied her mother. "What are you going to be now?"
"I'm going to be a space scientist. Or an engineer."
Five months later, she has not changed her mind. She's now one of the top-performing students in her science classes.
I know this girl is very young. I know she may as yet change her mind again. But if bringing to life the possibility of becoming a scientist or engineer to one girl, for whom that was a remote possibility at best, were literally the only effect my outreach efforts had ever had on any of the hundreds of students I've visited in the last twelve years*, it would be worth it.
* I'm fairly sure it's not.
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