STEM Tuesday

STEM Tuesday– Astronauts and Space Travel — Interview with Author Tanya Lee Stone

STEM Tuesday–Astronauts and Space Travel– Interview with Author Tanya Lee Stone

 

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today we’re interviewing Tanya Lee Stone, author of Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream It’s a fascinating look at the early days of astronaut training where women were barred from participating despite, in some cases, possessing superior skill levels. The New York Times Book Review said, “Stone’s carefully researched book makes the point that in the 1950s and ’60s there were ’13 women who… had the Right Stuff’ – but were the wrong sex at the wrong time.

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Christine Taylor-Butler: Tanya, you are one of the most accomplished authors in the field with more than 100 books under your belt. One of your superpowers seems to be telling compelling stories of lesser known historical figures whose contributions have left an indelible mark on society. For example, you wrote about Ilan Ramon, the first and only Israeli astronaut to date. What lead you to his story?

Tanya Lee Stone: Gosh, that book was written in the beginning of my career, before I was choosing my own topics. His story was so compelling that I dove right in.

CTB: In researching Ilan Ramon you came across private research that was conducted decades prior (1961) to determine if women were qualified to go into space. That snippet of information lead to writing Almost Astronauts – which earned you the American Library Association’s  Sibert Award. Do you find that your book research leads you to other serendipitous topics for future books?

Tanya: Yes. It was in doing the research for the Ilan Ramon book that I discovered a snippet of information about Jerrie Cobb–and that led me to write Almost Astronauts. That happens to me a lot. I’ll get lost in the library, immersed in research, and uncover all kinds of fascinating things that plant seeds in my brain for future books. I think I was writing about Elizabeth Blackwell (Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?!) when I fell in love with Ada Lovelace and later wrote Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers?!

CTB: You have a journalistic tenacity when it comes to tracking down primary sources, sometimes calling the person or their families to obtain photos, letters and journals. You speak of taking the time to gain their trust. How long does it take you, on average, to do the research for your books?

Tanya: Every book is really unique. It depends on how difficult it can be for me to find everything I need. The more obscure the story, the harder the job. Courage Has No Color took me 10 years to research and write because I was determined to track down as many of the men (or their family members) as I could to find primary sources such as letters, journals, and photographs to allow me to tell that story.

CTB: That’s a huge learning lesson for aspiring writers and students who believe primary resources are books written by other people about a particular subject.

Tanya: The time is well worth it; I consider it an honor and a privilege to shine a light on these stories–especially while some of these extraordinary people are still living!

CTB: What surprised you most in researching Almost Astronauts?

Tanya: What surprised me most is what still surprises me–that these women, who paved the way for every woman in the space industry today, are still not household names. I hope this book gets made into a film someday so it will have a much wider audience. Can’t you just see Reese Witherspoon as Jerrie Cobb?

CTB: Randolph Lovelace, the scientist conducting the tests, noted women were lighter and would take up less space on a mission. He calculated the difference in cost at $1,000 per pound compared to men if women were sent to space. That’s significant savings in 1960’s dollars. And yet NASA didn’t find it a compelling reason to open the program to women?

Tanya: Nope. Shocking, right? And Lovelace thought for sure that was going to be the fact that would make him a hero. So disappointing.

CTB: Nineteen women were tested. Thirteen successfully completed the testing, in many cases performing better than their male counterparts. Despite their proven skills, women were shut out of the astronaut program until 1978. You’re careful to explain the era in which these events occurred. Still, did it surprise that both John Glenn and Scott Carpenter both testified in Congress against having women in the program?

Tanya: Yes, it did surprise me–and it angered me. But what surprised me even more was that Jackie Cochran did the same thing to them! So much for the sisterhood, eh?

CTB: What do you want readers to come away with after reading your books?

Tanya: I write books about things that I have a strong emotional connection to, or passion for–whether that connection is positive or negative. The kind of thing that makes me say, “Wow, I can’t wait to share that with readers–that’s so cool, or that’s so interesting, or that’s so unjust!” So what I hope is that readers are as intrigued by the stories as I am, because they are the reason I’m sharing the story in the first place.

CTB. What’s next on the horizon for Tanya Lee Stone? Any future projects you want our readers to watch for?
Tanya: Absolutely! My next partnership with the brilliant illustrator Marjorie Priceman will be Remembering Rosalind: Rosalind Franklin and the Structure of DNA. This is our third book together–I’m ecstatic!

CTB: Note to readers. This book is well worth checking out. There’s a shocking revelation at the culmination of the women’s fight to be recognized.  I promised not to reveal it here but it helps explain what made this book so popular with awards committees. The author’s ability to tell the story of breaking barriers in the women’s own words makes for a compelling narrative, as does the discussion of the time period in which the events takes place. Enjoy.

Win a FREE copy of Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream.

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

 

Tanya Lee StoneTanya Lee Stone is an Assistant Professor at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, teaching in the Professional Writing Program.  She started her career as an editor in New York. After moving to Vermont in the late 90s, she started writing. She is best known for telling true stories of unsung heroines, with themes of empowering girls and women threaded throughout her work, such as Girl RisingAlmost Astronauts, Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?! and Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers?!  Her articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Horn BookThe New York TimesSchool Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.

Awards and honors include an NAACP Image Award, the Robert F. Sibert Medal, Golden Kite Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book, Bank Street’s Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction, NCTE Orbis Pictus Awards, NPR Best Books, and many state awards.  To learn more about Tanya and her books, please visit www.tanyastone.com. You can follow her on Twitter @TanyaLeeStone
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Christine Taylor-ButlerYour host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and many other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram

STEM Tuesday– Astronauts and Space Travel — Writing Tips & Resources

Behind the Scenes

Astronauts are awesome, don’t get me wrong. They’re like the quarterback of aeronautics and space exploration. They’re the face of the mission just as the quarterback is the face of the football team. But I’m a lineman. Linemen do the work in the trenches that keeps the quarterback on track for success. Space travel requires an army of men and women working in the trenches in order to make a mission successful and bring their astronauts home safe and sound. 

Curiosity Science Laboratory Mission Operations Team

I was full of wonder as only a newly-minted five-year-old birthday boy can be when I saw the Eagle land on the moon in July of 1969. That sense of wonder never left me but years later I got to thinking deeper about this life-changing event. Sure we all watched Neil Armstrong take one small step but what about the thousands of people working behind the scenes to make it possible? From the spacesuit to the landing pads to the camera to the experiments to the engineers who made a flagpole that would stick in the lunar surface, those thousands of people made those short, historic minutes possible.

Curiosity EDL Team NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab

Your STEM Tuesday mission this month?

Drill down into a system. Study it. Look at the purpose, the plan, the participants, and the place. It can be a human-engineered system, like NASA’s Mars Curiosity Lander Mission, the International Space Station, a zoo, a factory, a sports team, a library, a school, or it can be a natural system like a pond, anthill, beehive, or wolf pack. Any system will do. 

Curiosity Women of Mars Scientists

As I was preparing this piece, we experienced a historical event with the COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic designation by the World Health Organization. That, coupled with the infections ravaging Italy, kicked in a new, and hopefully short, shift in life for most of us. Social distancing, flattening the curve, epidemiology, supply chain economics, and shelter-in-place have all become new words in most of our vocabularies. 

The global systems in place to search for these emerging infectious diseases and react might be a good system to start. The World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and your state and local health departments are all good systems to study during the time of learning in place. It might also help kids, parents, teachers, and their families better understand the health systems in place and how these systems work for our safety.

STEM Tuesday enthusiasts, jump in on a system that fills you with wonder and then look behind the scenes. Drill down, dig deep, observe the inner workings with a fine-toothed comb. Keep a notebook or journal to document your journey. Use text, pictures, drawings, or whatever it takes to figure out what’s happening under the hood of your system. Feel free to share your discoveries in the comments below or by adding a link there.

Stay SAFE!

Stay informed!

Stay engaged with the life around you.

Stay STEM!

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.comTwo of his science essays, The Science of Jurassic Park and Zombie Microbiology 101,  are included in the Putting the Science in Fiction collection from Writer’s Digest Books. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 


The O.O.L.F Files

This month’s Out Of Left Field (O.O.L.F.) takes a look at systems. Everything from NASA to pandemics to insect colony organization. Click a link or two or three, or heck, click them all! Enjoy!

Go by Public Broadcasting System 

This is one of my favorite music videos and a top 50 Mike Hays song. It does a nice job of showing the behind the scenes of Apollo 11 moon landing riding along with a really awesome tune.

 

Novel Coronavirus 2019: Scientist Roundtable at the Science in SF blog 

I had the privilege of being part of a blog roundtable recently with some really sharp people to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are looking for some answers to your questions or just want to know more, check it out. 

More COVID-19 Questions? Here’s a great list of resources with information you can trust.

 

Inside the Ant Colony, a TEDed lesson

 

How Do Honeybees Get Their Jobs? | National Geographic

Unwrapped 

This is still one of my favorite Food Network shows. It made the foodie and the scientist sides of me very happy.

And finally, since we are talking about food…

Top 10 Most Amazing Automatic Food Processing Machines

Bon appetit! 

 


 

STEM Tuesday– Astronauts and Space Travel — In the Classroom


Reading books from this month’s list confirmed something I instinctively knew – I am nowhere near adventurous enough to be an astronaut. Here are my brief takes on the books I read.

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Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon
by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez

Countdown tells the story of how mankind journeyed to (and first walked on) the moon. Unlike most books about astronauts, this book is told in free verse poetry. It is also primarily illustrated, gorgeously, by Thomas Gonzalez.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgLost in Outer Space
by Tod Olson

This book screams for a read-aloud. Once you get into it, it gets increasingly difficult to put down. Olson does a great job of telling Apollo 13’s story. He puts his own spin on it by sprinkling the perspective of Commander Jim Lovell’s daughter Barbara (a teenager at the time) throughout.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgCutting-Edge Astronaut Training
by Karen Latchana Kenny

This book is a quick but informative read, covering how astronauts train to go into space.

 

 

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Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow
by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

This book looks at NASA from the beginning of the space program through to expectations for the future. One thing I love about this book is that it weaves in what is happening in the world at various points in time and how those things impact NASA’s missions.

Springboard From the Books

Each of these books has references to materials that readers can explore in order to delve more deeply into the subject matter. Look through the books and take some time to explore these materials, most of which are online.

You can also explore materials provided from author and publisher websites.

Tod Olson, Lost in Outer Space: http://todolson.com/resources/lost-in-outer-space-resources

Countdown: https://peachtree-online.com/portfolio-items/countdown

Suzanne Slade’s Book Resources: https://www.suzanneslade.com/contact-me

Suzanne Slade’s Great Space Resources: https://www.suzanneslade.com/great-space-resources

Explore Free Verse

Take a closer look at Coundown and challenge students to create their own free verse poetry. As an added challenge, have students use poetry as a means of writing nonfiction – whether it’s describing something or telling a nonfiction story.

Here are two great resources for looking at and developing some free verse:

https://www.poetry4kids.com/news/how-to-write-a-free-verse-poem

https://powerpoetry.org/actions/5-tips-writing-free-verse-poem

As a bonus, you can read about Suzanne Slade’s journey in writing this book here: https://picturebookbuilders.com/2018/08/countdown-2979-days-to-the-moon-giveaway

Signs of the Times

Pick an event from one of the books. Explore what was going on in the world at that point in time. Here are some questions you might want to answer:

What songs were popular? Listen to some.
What TV shows were people watching? Watch one.
What were people wearing?
What problems was the world facing at that time?
Who was the President of the United States? Who were the other world leaders?
What was the cutting-edge technology for that time?

Consider making a timeline of important world events, including one or more of the significant events mentioned in the book(s).

Who do you know who was alive during that time? Interview one or more people to get their perspective(s) on the event.

Consider Being an Astronaut

Do a little career exploration and determine if you have what it takes to be an astronaut.
What is NASA looking for in astronauts? Find out here: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/postsecondary/features/F_Astronaut_Requirements.html

There is a short video where astronauts talk about what kinds of people NASA looks for in astronauts here: https://youtu.be/4fXsAvv96Gw.

Take an Astronaut test – would you be a good candidate? https://www.astronaut-test.com/quiz

NASA has a behind the scenes look at astronaut training from about 15 years ago. Poke around the information and read entries from an astronaut trainee’s journal here: https://spaceflight.nasa.gov/shuttle/support/training

Then answer the question. Do you have what it takes to be an astronaut? Why or why not?

Pick astronaut or another career and do a little research into it.
What kind of skills and/or training does it require?
What is a typical workday like?
What is the pay range?

One place to look for career information is the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/k12/students

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It takes many people to put astronauts up in space. One book that highlights a lot of these jobs is Team Moon: How 400,000 People Landed Apollo 11 on the Moon by Catherine Thimmesh.

Read this and/or look through NASA’s website to see what other careers help with space exploration. Do any of them interest you?

 

Other Ideas:

Look Into Life in Space

Take an online tour of the ISS in space with astronaut Sunita (Suni) Williams: https://youtu.be/06-Xm3_Ze1o

Or watch the 30 minute video A Day in the Life Aboard the International Space Station: https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/stem-on-station/dayinthelife

How is life in space similar to your life? How is it different?
Would you like to live in space? Why or why not?
Bonus: Can you find out what your home looks like from space?

Astronaut Biographies

There is so much information available on the NASA website. Here is where you can find a lot of the information related to astronauts: https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts.

Biographies for NASA’s active astronauts can be found here: https://www.nasa.gov/astronauts/biographies/active.

There are other links for information on former astronauts, international astronauts, and more.
Students could choose an astronaut to profile, explore the information provided, and write a biography about them.

 

I hope you have fun journeying into space with these books and activities.

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Janet Slingerland loves learning about science, history, nature, and (well) everything, which she then turns into a book. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website: janetsbooks.com