METEORITE MAGAZINE ARTICLE, NOVEMBER 2006
1st Grade and 3rd Grade Meteorite Presentations
School Year 2006
by Gary K. Foote
Last fall my wife, CJ and I had the pleasure of talking to two separate grade school classes about meteorites. Now, neither one of us is a teacher and neither one of us has been collecting meteorites for long. However, when we begin an interest in something we go all out in learning our new subject so we were secure we had the right knowlege in hand. We just weren't sure of our teaching abilities.
Having grandchildren in grade school made that part of the process much easier to contemplate, so we went ahead and got our 'notes' together, readied some particularly good specimens of different falls/finds and made some phone calls to the school to gauge their interest. Guess what? They were thrilled at the prospect of an outside presentation on a topic they themselves were not really prepared to talk about. A date was set and we were 'on'.
The first task was finalizing the specimens we would take with us. Certainly some Campos and some Sikhote-Alins and a nice slice of NWA869. We also brought some etched Gibeon, various unclassified NWAs, some tektites, some melt glass from Sudbury and, of course, a classic meteorwrong which we had sliced to compare the inside of this slag specimen with the inside intricacies of the real thing. Finally we packed up a small NWA for each child. Most of these giveaway specimes were fragments, but most also showed fusion crust or desert weathering clearly on at least one face. We would like to thank Rob Wesel of Nahkla Dog Meteorites for generously providing these specimens given to the children.
For our final supplies we brought some rare earth magnets tied to 12 inch strings for showing attraction to magnetism, a few artists renderings of meteors in flight, and our imaginations to bring it all alive.
Our first class was the 1st Grade. While the teacher introduced us I tried to put myself in the shoes of the small group of tiny children seated on the floor before us, trying to think like a 1st grader thinks. Its been a long time! At that point, having failed to think like a 1st grader, I knew I had to decide on an opening question and let them 'direct the show' from that beginning. I asked them this question;
Who knows what a meteorite is?
Hands shot up all around our little audience and we were off. One by one we called on them and listened to what they knew [or thought they knew] about meteorites. We were surprised at how wide their knowlege was! We were also surprised at how much we learned about cartoon characters and movies they'd seen and something their Uncle once 'saw' and so on.
When their comments finally ran down a bit we had them imagine what a meteor might experience as it traveled from the vacuum of space, through our atmosphere and onto/into the ground. We talked to them about how the friction with air made them heat up. We had them rub their hands together to demonstrate friction and asked them to compare that with air 'rubbing' on an incoming meteor traveling 'faster than a bullet'. This helped them understand what caused the melted look of many specimens we had brought with us.
We also talked about water and how, when you poke your finger at it, all it does is move aside and your finger goes in it. We then asked them if they had ever done or seen someone do a bellyflop into a pool. Again, we asked them to compare that difference to the effect of a meteor 'hitting' earth's atmosphere and breaking up from the impact - like the biggest bellyflop they could imagine.
Then we asked for questions and the hands started popping up again. We answered such questions as;
How fast do meteors fly? Where do meteors come from? Where did you get your meteorites? What are they made of?
We did our best to field these questions, reminding ourselves the whole time of the age of oour audience. For the first graders we talked about meteors coming from way past the moon, as the moon is a familiar object in the sky to them. We mentioned asteroids but knew that concept was at the edge of their comprehension. With the later third grade class we talked about the asteroid 'belt' and how they sometimes banged together and pieces got knocked off and they ended up landing here on earth. With neither class did we talk about Lunar or Martian meteorites as that would have just clouded the presentation.
Next we let them come forward in groups of four to look closely at our small collection spread out on a table. We allowed touching and hefting of certian specimens that we knew were quite stable. Other specimens we alone handled and let the kids look but don't touch. We had a slew of magnifying glasses and they were invaluable in letting them see the details in the NWA 869 slice, as well as the tiny flow lines and rollover edges of the oriented irons we had brought. They loved the Space Coin stamped from Campo iron we aquired from the Hupe Collection most of all!
The kids were further impressed and when we gave each their own meteorite. They all had to try their specimen's magnetism with our magnets-on-strings. Duly impressed, and at least slightly more knowlegable, we left them smiling. We ourselves smiled all the way home and talked about our experience for hours. We will definitely be back in front of a classroom more times, sharing what we know about meteorites and the universe around us to future generations.
About the Authors;
Gary K. Foote is 55 and a lifelong deep-sky afficionado. The constellations and the immensity and complexity of the night sky have always drawn his imagination. By profession he has been a musician, ski instructor, ski area owner, advertising agency owner, TV producer, internet designer/marketer, and most recently has entered into a retail operation with his wife and partner, CJ. He began focusing his attention on, and collecting meteorites in early 2005.
CJ Foote is of indeterminate age and has had a lifelong passion for learning in any capacity. She has been a business owner for the last 25 years and is always ready for the next challenge.
The Footes live in the mountains of New Hampshire, USA.
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