Since this is the pause and reflect season, I’m going to pause and reflect on what a space-y holiday it’s turning out to be. In large part because of the ongoing success of a couple of small projects I’ve been cultivating at NSS of North Texas, but other projects as well.
One of my favorites is the children’s reading library at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. The local Civil Air Patrol Cadets put together an awesome wooden airplane bookcase. The wing is up front on top and acts as a reading surface. The pilot’s area is open so a child can sit in it and steer the plane. The sides are hollowed out into bookcases all the way back to the empennage.
The Museum routinely drops by library booksales to try to bulk up the stock, but the reality is that books will walk from the museum, perhaps to placate any number of irascible children. The staff reminds me of this fact every time we try to give them books. So what we do is incribe “A gift to the Frontiers of Flight Museum from the North Texas chapter of the National Space Society for all the children of the Metroplex” on the inside cover of each one, and then hand them over. The museum saves the best of the lot for their classroom programs, and sets the rest free in the children’s area to the vicissitudes of fate and the cruel hands of countless children.
This year’s haul was phenomenal. 23 books all told, with a lot of really nice ones in the mix. To give you an idea:
-Usborne’s “On the Moon” by Milbourne & Davies
-Simon & Schuster’s “The Moon” by Seymour Simon
-Kingfisher’s “The Best Book of the Moon” by Ian Graham
-Children’s Reading Institute’s “What the Moon is Like” by BRanley & Kelley
-“Apollo Moon Rocks” by Marcus & Lillian Langseth
-Bright & Early Books’ “The Berenstain Bears on the Moon” by Stan & Jan Berenstain
-Firefly’s “New Atlas of the Moon” by Legault & Brunier
-HarperCollins’ “I want to be an Astronaut” by Byron Barton
-Childrens Press’ “Spacelab” by Dennis Fradin
-Golden Books’ “Glow in the Dark Trip to the Planets” by Hammond & Jordan
-Funk & Wagnall’s “Charlie Brown’s Cyclopedia Vol. 3 – Blast Off to Space: Astronauts, Rockets & Moon Walks”
-DK’s “Revealed: Space” by Alex Barnett
-“Engineer’s at Work: Space Rocket” by Tim Furniss
-Firefly’s “Final Frontier: Voyages into Outer Space” by David Owen
-“The Space Atlas: A Pictorial Atlas of Our Universe” by Couper & Henbest
-Barron’s “Discoverology: Voyage Through Space” by Ian Graham
-Disney Learning’s “Wonderful World of Space” by Andrew Fraknoi
-Kingfisher’s “My Book of Space” by Ian Graham
-Random House’s “There’s No Place Like Space!” by Rabe & Ruiz
-“Time for Learning: Stars & Planets” by Rick Morris
-“Spacebusters: The Race for the Moon” by Philip Wilkinson
-DK Readers’ “Astronaut: Living in Space” by Kate Hayden
-DK Readers’ “Rockets and Spaceships” by Karen Wallace
That should hold them for a while. I hope. And of course, yours truly provided all of the Moon books.
We also had a great turnout for our Santa Space Toy Drive, and I had a back seat full of space shuttle toys and model rockets and planet puzzles and space games and plastic spacemen. One complaint that does comes up frequently is that space toys are hard to find, so folks go online. I took a walkthrough of a local Toys’R’Us to see if I could find anything and settled on a Lego Mars Mission mobile laboratory (what some might call a MOLAB). There really wasn’t a whole lot of anything, spacewise. If they’d had any “Moon in my Room”s those were long gone. There was a Fisher Price ‘PlanetACE’ figure, but for some reason I didn’t go for that one.
It is rather discouraging. The usual fantasies are there – cowboys, dinosaurs, pirates, trains, princesses, athletes, pop tarts. But not really any spacemen.
And that makes it difficult when you’re trying to get people to be interested in space as a place for us to live and work, not just look at pretty pictures of. There’s not a lot of material out there locally to enable it. Which makes it easy to overlook. And easy to ignore. We need more space toys stocked in our local stores!
All told we put together three fair-sized boxes of stuff, and I dropped them off at the big drop-off point downtown for the Santa’s Helpers program to help disadvantaged youth. I also made a point to talk to one of the ‘official’ Official Elves (as opposed to the volunteers, which I might just have to help out with next year) to get some contact information and to see about getting more visibility for our efforts. Which admittedly pale in comparison with well-established local projects that do things like drop of 60 bikes for the kids. It’s also hard to put out collection boxes when the USMC has all the best locations for their ‘Toys for Tots’ program and I, for one, am not going to mess with the Marines.
Nevertheless, my sister texted me the following evening to inform me that NSS of North Texas was specifically thanked during the 6pm newscast. Woo Hoo!
On the education side of things I just got my grade for the online Moon class I took starting in September. This was the first time this sort of thing was offered, so it was a learning experience for everyone. It wasn’t really an in depth scientific look at the Moon, but rather an exploration of teaching about the Moon and how just because we tell someone something about the Moon, they may not necessarily ‘hear’ what we say. The documentaries “A Private Universe” and “Minds of our Own” were distributed to everyone, and they were certainly eye-opening, not least because I could see much of myself in many of the gifted youngsters to whom they were talking. It certainly had an impact on some of the strategies I use in outreach. While I may not necessarily have been doing anything wrong in how I convey information about the Moon, there were certainly things I could do better. Sure most of my projects were late. The trip to China in the middle of the semester didn’t help either, and I was basically playing catch-up through the end of the semester. Still, my researches in the Lunar Library give me an edge that few others have, and I managed to eke out an A. Double Woo Hoo!
Speaking of the Lunar Library, I can report that the reviews of Lunar science fiction have had page views more than quadruple in 2007. The project was begun in January of 2006, and by the end of that year I had 12,000 page views for the thread. For 2007 that’s up to over 66,500 page views to date. Most of the traffic has come in the last half of the year, so I’m going to set an ambitious target of 150,000 page views by the end of 2008. Even better, the end of this phase of the project is in sight, as I only have about 50 or so books left to review, and a handful of short stories. There are over 150 reviews up to date, and I’m guessing that by the end (hopefully the end of 2008) it’s going to be the most comprehensive overview of Moon-related fiction around.
Speaking of space fun, it’s not too early to start thinking of a Yuri’s Night event on April 12th in your locale. It’s on a Saturday night in 2008! That can mean only one thing – WORLD SPACE PARTY!!!
NSS of NT has already given the go-ahead to try and put something together in 2008, and the plans are already starting to form. This could be so much fun. Kind of like a Scarborough Faire, but in reverse – future-looking instead of past looking. It could be fun, but as I sit down and plot out what it would take for what I have in mind (a phenomenal all-day space educational/party bonanza for all ages!), it seems a daunting task. Would there be enough volunteers in the metroplex space community to make it happen, and enough bucks to fund it? One benefit of the ISDC was that we got to know a lot more of our local space-related folks than we used to, and that always helps. If you’re in the the D/FW metroplex and want to help out, drop me a line at my Lunadyne account at Gmail.com.
My Wish for 2008? I’d like to see another success with the flight of at least a prototype tourist vehicle. Some smaller successes, like an X-Prize Cup win, and a Millenial Challenge or two, would also be good as well.
Best space wishes for 2008!