I’ve been teaching science for almost a hundred days now, ninety-two days to be exact.

At the beginning teaching science was a huge shift in thinking and I always felt unprepared. But, lately, I’ve been feeling a bit more on top of things. My advanced science students finished their science fair papers, projects, and presentations this past week and all of the presentations are completed AND graded. Now, I just have to pore over their final reports and grade them. The district science fair was last weekend and several of the student’s projects are very good and have the possibility of advancing to the state science fair in early May. I am excited for them, they did all of the work and they own the credit. I was just a shepherd, of a scientific sort.

I have two levels of science – advanced and regular – which means two curriculums and two separate plans. In regular science we’ve been focusing on matter and atoms; and we’ve finally gotten to the structure of the periodic table and how many electrons are in the outer electron shell. It’s really exciting stuff, trust me. In advanced science we are playing with aliens and looking for patterns. Click here for a web version of the activity. ALIENS.

Today was a special day. I began class with a short video clip – from January 28, 1986. I haven’t always been a teacher and I wasn’t a teacher at the time, just a brash young man full of vim and vigor and possibility trying to make his way. I was 24 years old and I remember the day well, very well. I can close my eyes and visualize where I was and what I was doing. I was working in the restaurant business and all of us in the mall just congregated in front of our stores and talked about what we had heard. I was in shock. I believe all of America was in shock.

As my students filed into class, I hustled them into their seats and informed them that we needed to watch a video, I told them it was live, which was a bit of a fib, but I was taking them back 29 years. 29 years ago, science classes across the US were tuned and watching the liftoff of the Challenger. 73 seconds in to the mission…… we know the rest of the story. It wasn’t just a space shuttle mission but a special mission with a science teacher aboard as a crew member. Some of my students knew of the Challenger disaster and we discussed it briefly, one of my science peers was in fourth grade at the time and he recalled watching as only a fourth grader would remember. It was a somber moment in class, and then we moved on and went back to learning – that’s why the Challenger crew did what they did.

Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist

Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander

Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist

Mike J. Smith, pilot

Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist

Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Teacher-in-Space payload specialist

Gregory Jarvis, payload specialist

January 28, 1986

Challenger crew photo courtesy of Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Challenger crew photo courtesy of Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

That’s one of the reasons I teach, so the contributions of the past aren’t lost or forgotten. Learning never ends, just the desire to learn. I hope I never get to that point. Today was a great day and tomorrow promises to be a million and six times better. Trust me, I am a scientist. Making the Days Count, one day at a time.

Do you remember January 28, 1986? What were you doing?

8 thoughts on “Challenger

    1. It was indeed a sad day. We are destined to repeat our mistakes if we don’t look back occasionally. That’s why it’s important to have things like the Lexington, and her three sisters – the Yorktown, Hornet, and Intrepid – to remind us of where we’ve been. Have a wonderful day and a week to come.

  1. Yes, I remember the day well. We saw the drama on TV with my then quite young children. It was uch a shock as the space programme always seemed somehow invincible to us. Easy to forget that those astronauts were brave and knew just how they weren’t at all invincible.

    1. I watched The Right Stuff last night and it reminded me of how brave our astronauts really were… I am grateful for those who’ve gone before me and blazed the path. We stand on the shoulders of many. Wishing you a wonderful week.

  2. I was in college, climbing the stairs to the second floor on my way to class. I can still see the stairs, the window half-way up, blue sky and sun, and then someone shouted the news. I remember Christa McAuliffe, and what an amazing thing that she was with that group.

    I haven’t watched that news clip in 29 years. I’ve said it before – you’re a good teacher, Clay. Good job.

    1. Thank you – teaching is a lot of fun, most days. Making the difference in the life of a kid and teaching them to think beyond themselves, even for a moment. I am grateful for those who taught me sharing their passion – Atlee and Wright to name only a couple. Have a wonderful week.

    1. Thank you. I surveyed my fellow science teachers: one was in fourth grade and watching the broadcast, two more weren’t old enough to be in school, another wasn’t born, and another, the oldest of the bunch, had chosen not to watch the broadcast – he’ll retire this year after 35 years in the classroom. I remember the day well – some events stick with us forever. Thank you for stopping by, wishing you a wonderful week.

Thanks for visiting MtDC. How are YOU Making YOUR Days Count?