Monday, October 16, 2017

Reach for the Stars

Reach for the Stars
By Madison S.

Do you find yourself staring up at the night sky wondering about the stars and the planets?

Do you love learning about the Universe and dream of becoming an astronaut? Two Senior Girl Scouts with a passion for astronomy were selected to represent Girl Scouts of Nassau County (GSNC) during a weeklong Leadership Training Summit at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The experience was out of this world. It was a combination of lectures given by NASA’s best and brightest, hands on laboratory activities, fun and friendship.

At NASA Goddard, hundreds of scientists are making the latest discoveries each day. NASA launched a partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA to educate and excite girls about astronomy. As you can imagine, there was a lot of competition, and only 10 councils were chosen to participate in the Leadership Training at Goddard! GSNC compiled a team of four individuals, an amateur astronomer, a council representative, and two Girl Scouts. Our amateur astronomer, Sue R.’s love for astronomy was contagious, and her expertise invaluable. Without Sara S., Girl Experience Senior Manager at GSNC, our trip would not have been possible. Sara wore many hats during this trip, she was our support and guidance, go to for any questions, and reminded us to stay hydrated. Miranda and Madison were Nassau County’s Girl Scout representatives. Miranda is a student at Jericho High School with a long time interest in astrophysics. In addition to being in accelerated courses, she is a member of the Girl Scout FIRST®  Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics Team, The Digital Darlings, and a volunteer for the younger FIRST® LEGO League (FLL) Robotics teams and at FIRST Robotics events. Madison is an honors student at Our Lady of Mercy Academy. She is a member of Media Girls, Ceremonial Unit, Girl Speak, and a volunteer for Girl Speak Junior and Scoutreach Programs. Our team was a great fit!

Our days at Goddard began with introductions and discussions about the outcomes we wanted from the program. This welcoming and friendly atmosphere set the stage for the week to come. Each morning, we heard from one of NASA’s expert scientists. Dr. Carrie Anderson discussed the Cassini Mission and the moon Titan, which are her areas of research. Dr. Nicki Viall discussed heliophysics, which is the science that focuses on Earth/Sun Interactions. Dr. Viall is currently studying temperatures in the corona of the Sun. Dr. Sten Odenwald gave an engaging discussion regarding the unanswered questions of the Universe, including Dark Matter. Ms. Kristine Romich gave a relatable talk about the internships and research programs for high school students interested in STEM.

Our week concluded with an address by Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. John Mather. His speech centered around his role cementing the Big Bang Theory and the James Webb Telescope, the successor of the Hubble Telescope. All of the speakers radiated passion and were excited to interact with the girls.

Learning by doing is an important part of all Girl Scout programs. Our interactive lab activities and tours enabled us to apply what we learned from our lectures and talks in a real-world environment. Our group created a scale model of the Solar System, made observations and inferences about a brand new planet made of Play-Dough, viewed Robotic Solar Telescope images, made cereal box spectrometers, created an H-R  Diagram, and had a Virtual Reality experience. We visited the Space Weather Action Center, Spacecraft Assembly Building, Educational Technology Lab, and Goddard Visitors Center. While touring, we were introduced to different scientists and astronomers, and learned more about the diverse career opportunities in science.

Our week at Goddard was specifically designed for us by two NASA employees, Lou Mayo and Troy Cline. Lou and Troy were there every step of the way with us during the summit, coordinating all speakers, tours, and activities. They made sure everyone felt included and had a memorable time. All of the hard work done by these individuals made it possible for GSNC to begin a local Astronomy Club! The GSNC Astronomy Club will be a series program for girls in sixth and seventh grade who are passionate about astronomy or want to learn more about this fascinating topic. Meetings, which will begin later in 2017, will consist of interactive activities, engaging presentations, fun and friendship. When more information becomes available, it will be found on GSNC.org.


We hope to see you at our first meeting

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