Planets started to take shape on the posters outside the Stillwater Public Library on Wednesday afternoon.
Soon, the planets were formed into entire solar systems, spray painted by the bright young minds who attended a fun event that was part of the library’s Summer Reading Program.
The events this summer have been space-centric and Wednesday’s was no different as dozens of teenagers were able to use their imagination while also learning more about the wonders of the cosmos.
The program had three stations – the one outside where teens painted their own solar systems and two inside with one station showing teens the effects of meteorites on the moon’s surface and another one letting the students partake in edible science with candy bars.
This event, taught by instructors from the NASA Oklahoma Space Grant, was a hit with the teenagers and many had questions afterward. That is what makes it such a great time for Dorinda Risenhoover each time she can come out and make learning a bit more interactive.
Risenhoover, the education coordinator for NASA OSGC, has been at this for 23 years and she never has a dull moment, always looking for ways to get kids involved with space.
“What I enjoy most about this job is first of all, it is very varied, but I also seem to work with a variety of different people whether that be researchers and scientists and astronauts and translating what they tell us and what they are working on into activities for students,” Risenhoover said.
With her energetic demeanor, she had the students’ attention the whole time and she hoped that a lot of what she and her assistants taught stuck with them.
For Risenhoover, this is more than just a summer program to give kids something to do, but it could be something to inspire them to achieve their dreams.
“Inspiring them to be the next generation of thinkers and doers or if it is empowering the teachers to seek out new ways to empower those students as thinkers and doers,” Risenhoover said. “I think that is the most exciting part is getting to work with them and see the ‘aha’ as the whole circle works together. It is a great relationship.”
The space theme has been a big hit all summer and the library hopes it can have its bottle rocket demonstration next week, along with news coming out Thursday that Oklahoma astronaut John Herrington will be at the library next Wednesday.
Having these types of activities available to student gives Risenhoover hope that in the future, space exploration will continue breaking barriers and testing limits.
“Even if they just catch one little snippet, that is one snippet that they didn’t have before so then when they go onto the next activity, they are going to recognize those words and remember parts and pieces of that,” Risenhoover said. “We are just really building those little blocks that are going to create these big blocks that will take us all the way to Mars and these are the kids that are going to do it. These kids that were here today are going to be those that will be the mathematicians behind it and be the educators educating the next generation. They are going to be our astronauts landing on Mars or the ones programming the robots. It is that small building block that will pay off big time exponentially in the future.”