The Changing Face of Space: New Horizons for NASA, and Women

The Changing Face of Space: New Horizons for NASA and WomenThis month, the New Horizons Probe made a close flyby of Pluto, giving scientists the first-ever photos of the surface of the former planet. From there, the tiny probe headed deep into the Kuiper Belt to examine some of the ice-balls that circle our solar system far beyond the last planets. Remnants of a time when our solar system formed, this huge region has intrigued astronomers for a very long time. Space scientists surely find this exciting. The general public probably finds it interesting, but by now is fairly used to seeing random shots of far-off places.

For many of us, the National Aeronautic and Space Agency (NASA) has been part of our world our entire lives. If you lived in the ’50s and early ’60s, you remember the race to space, with Earth orbits and ocean splashdowns of tiny space capsules. In the late ’60s through the ’70s, the Apollo missions to the moon captivated the world and brought us the first humbling photos of our fragile world from a distance. The next decades brought the space shuttle, including the Challenger failure. The first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, was among those who died when the Challenger exploded during takeoff in 1986.

One huge success of space shuttle flight was the launching and adjusting of the Hubble telescope, which has let us look farther into space—and into the universe’s origins—than ever before. The Space Shuttle Program also helped build and supply the International Space Station (ISS) until 2011. Most recently, NASA’s news has focused on planetary probes and studies of asteroids and comets.

In the early days of NASA, the public saw very few women participating in space projects. The glory days of Apollo brought great attention to the astronauts’ wives, but no comment on the few female faces scattered across the floor of the Johnson Space Center tracking the flights. In 1963, the Soviet Union sent the first woman into space: It was not until 1983 that Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. But women are playing an increasingly significant role behind the scenes at NASA, evidenced by the fact that dozens of women are behind the design, building, testing, tracking, and eventual deciphering of data from the New Horizons Probe.

Among the women making New Horizons happen are Alice Bowman, the mission operations manager, and Yanping Guo, the design leader responsible for the trajectory data that will take the probe past Pluto with precision. Leslie Young sets the flyby’s research priorities, both before the flight and in real time. Indeed, women are so common on this elite team of scientists and engineers that scientist Kim Ennico is quoted on NASA’s site saying, “I’m really only conscious of it when there are only women in a meeting room.”

Katherine Johnson's work at NASA's Langley Research Center spanned 1953 to 1986 and included calculating the trajectory of the early space launches. Photo Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

Katherine Johnson’s work at NASA’s Langley Research Center spanned 1953 to 1986 and included calculating the trajectory of the early space launches.
Photo Credit: NASA/Sean Smith.

Women had been working on space flight research and development even before NASA was founded. In the mid-1940s, Roxanah Yancey and Isabell Martin were among the women working at the Muroc test site, using their math degrees to crunch the numbers needed to develop the X1 aircraft. Nancy Roman left her position at the Naval Research Laboratory in 1959 to become NASA’s first head of Astronomy and Relativity Programs. Katherine Johnson was an African-American woman who joined the pre-NASA pool of mathematicians, calculating flight trajectories and plotting navigational charts before there were computers. Johnson was a teacher before that, and a strong supporter of STEM programs after she left NASA. Hundreds of others have worked on NASA projects since the agency was created, and that number is only expected to increase in the coming years.

When you look at the images and news stories about the New Horizons Probe with your family or your students this fall, talk about the women who are working hard to make it happen. They are among those changing the face of science and math forever and proving that the students of today’s schools can look to find opportunities on many new horizons.

Learn more about women and space with these resources:
NASA’s Women in Space
“The Women Who Power NASA’s New Horizons Mission to Pluto”
Women in Flight Research at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center from 1949–1995”
“She Was a Computer When Computers Wore Skirts, the Story of Katherine Johnson”

Check out these sites on the history of NASA:
Armstrong Hosts NASA 50th Anniversary Documentary (2008)
50th Anniversary of NASA (2008) with interactive time-line, and pages for teachers, students, and more

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Disney Pixar’s Inside Out Starts a Conversation About Feelings

By Goldie Millar and Lisa A. Berger, coauthors of F Is for Feelings

Disney Pixar’s Inside Out Starts a Conversation About FeelingsChildren’s feelings are enjoying some time in the spotlight this summer! With the recent release of Pixar Studio’s animated feature film Inside Out, children’s feelings are being explored and celebrated.

Inside Out is the story of eleven-year-old Riley, a happy, hockey-loving girl from the Midwest. When her family moves to San Francisco, Riley’s emotions—Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust—help her navigate the stress and difficulty from this new and challenging experience. The cute, personified emotions run a control booth in Riley’s mind, and we see how they react to everything that happens to Riley, react to each other, and affect what she does next.

This movie is proving to be a summer blockbuster with its amazing animation, celebrity character voice-overs, and witty quips and jokes for all ages—and it is all about feelings! As parents and caring adults, we can feel good about spending time with the children in our lives talking, learning, and sharing feelings.

In the movie, we not only learn about Riley’s feelings, but also her parents’. Everyone has feelings: children, parents, grandparents, and all other caring adults. Feelings are normal and part of being human. They drive our thinking, behavior, reactions, and experiences. They are a part of who we are. The more we can pay attention to our feelings, the better they are able to guide us in our lives and help us in difficult circumstances.

It can be helpful to remember that all feelings are okay, natural, and important. Riley experiences Joy, a comfortable emotion. We all love the feeling of being happy and excited. Talking about positive feelings is usually easy, comfortable, and socially acceptable, but happiness is not the whole picture. All feelings are important and part of being human. Riley also feels Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. These feelings tend to be less comfortable and can be painful and hard to experience. They can be difficult to talk about and traditionally less socially acceptable. However, all of our feelings—comfortable and uncomfortable—help us make sense of our experiences, process our reactions, and grow.

It is important to talk openly with the children in our lives about their feelings, our own feelings, and how our feelings go everywhere with us. When the feeling conversations start early in life, they are more likely to continue and pave the way for healthy expression in difficult or overwhelming situations.

Talking, exploring, and learning about feelings does not have to be hard! Inside Out is a great example of how feelings are a part of every day and can make you laugh, cry, and, most of all, grow.

(Bonus! Check out these free Inside Out–related activities from Pixar, including “Mixed Emotions Improv.”)

Goldie Millar, Ph.D.Goldie Millar, Ph.D., is a clinical and school psychologist. Since earning her Ph.D. in counseling psychology from the University of Toronto in 2003, she has worked with children in hospital, forensic, community, and educational settings. She has a deep interest in children’s mental health, emotional regulation, and evidence-based intervention strategies.


Lisa Berger, Ph.D.Lisa Berger, Ph.D., is a clinical, counseling, and rehabilitation psychologist who works with adolescents and adults in a private practice. In 2003, Dr. Berger received her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Toronto. She has practiced in hospitals, post-secondary institutions, and community-based settings. Lisa’s professional interests include emotional health and wellness, psychological trauma, and emotion-based therapy.

F is for FeelingsGoldie Millar and Lisa Berger are the coauthors of F Is for Feelings.

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Why Your Gifted Child Isn’t Living Up to Expectations (And What You Can Do About It)

By Jim Delisle, Ph.D.

Why Your Gifted Child Isn't Living Up to ExpectationsOf all the issues confronting gifted kids, their parents, and their teachers, one of the most contentious can be whittled down to one word: expectations. Whether it is concern over grades (“A few B-plusses will keep you out of the top-tier colleges!”), career selection (“I don’t think wanting to become a fashion designer qualifies as a ‘gifted’ job choice.”), or choices of friends (“Do you really think this is the right crowd for you to associate with?”), expectations rear their heads on an almost daily basis in the lives of gifted kids and the adults who care about their well-being.

Of course, it’s entirely logical that gifted kids (or all kids, really) might hold different expectations for themselves than adults do. Why? Often because kids and teens place much more importance on the present than the future—the exact opposite of what adults value. So, if you are a gifted twelve-year-old who is more interested in video games than studying for the upcoming science test, your parent’s comment about video games being less important than acing a quiz on photosynthesis might fall on deaf ears. If hanging out with certain classmates helps you feel like something you would like to be—athletic, popular, artistic—you might choose friends differently as a teen than you would as a secure adult when such popularity is not as essential.

Another reason gifted kids may not strive to the same degree or in the same direction as adults is their often-unstated fear of failure. Most gifted kids are adept at certain things (especially academics) from the time they are very young. Needing to practice a skill to get good at it is foreign to them since things seem to come naturally and quickly, without exerting much sweat. So, when things start to get tougher (which is inevitable), the once-brilliant gifted kids may begin to see themselves as less capable than before. They haven’t changed or gotten less smart, but this is what many gifted kids believe. In this scenario, it is often safer, from a psychological viewpoint, to put little or no effort into something where success is not guaranteed. For some gifted kids, it’s better to perform poorly on purpose than to just miss a high level of achievement that adults may expect.

A third reason why there is often an “expectations divide” between gifted kids and the adults around them has to do with context. If you are used to being the smartest kid in class, and then you enter a class full of other gifted kids who are used to being the smartest kid in class, a new normal of achievement is set. All too often, kids in this position begin to see themselves as the “dumbest of the smart kids.” If this issue remains undiscussed or underappreciated, a downward spiral of achievement can result.

Why Your Gifted Child Isn’t Living Up to Expectations quoteThe preceding paragraphs point to one thing: expectations are a much bigger deal than just getting good grades in math or winning a medal for swimming. Often, gifted kids’ expectations are wrapped inside an intricate web of thoughts and feelings that revolve around one central question: “Am I good enough for the adults in my life?”

Trying to disentangle expectations from  gifted kids’ self-worth is usually a futile effort. They’ve been praised since they were young for how smart they are and how far their minds will take them in life, so it makes sense that they would eventually internalize these comments.

There are all manners of books that will tell you ways that you can help your gifted child become less risk-averse, more open to challenges, and more comfortable accepting less than perfection. However, many of these “cures” have no more impact than does placing an adhesive bandage on a gaping wound. No overnight cure-all exists for something as psychologically embedded as a person’s self-worth.

My advice? Keep the lines of communication open with your gifted child or teen by following these few suggestions:

  • Do twice as much listening as talking about what their personal goals are.
  • Saying, “it sounds like you’re upset with this grade,” is much more soothing to hear than, “Don’t worry, you’ll do better next time.”
  • Asking questions like, “Help me understand why ___________ is so important to you. What joy does it bring you?” will continue a conversation, while saying, “I just don’t get why you like ___________ so much,” will almost surely end the conversation.
  • Instead of asking, “What did you earn on your report card?” ask, “What did you learn this quarter?”
  • If your gifted kid is trying something that might be difficult, don’t remind her that she’ll do well because she is “smart.” Instead, thank her for taking on a challenge that she didn’t have to choose in the first place and let her know that you’ve got her back as she strives to do well.

Growth Contract from When Gifted Kids Don't Have All the Answers(Bonus! Download the Growth Contract, a free printable page from When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All the Answers. Use the Growth Contract to help your child make a plan for personal change.)

At some point in each of our lives, we’ve probably been slapped around by the ogre of oversized expectations imposed by self or others. Getting a handle on expectations is less a matter of technique than an issue of mindset. And if all else fails, ask yourself this question to help guide your next steps: “What would I want someone to say to me if I were in my kid’s position?”

See? I bet that helps already.

Delisle_Jim_FSP AuthorJim Delisle is an award-winning author of nineteen books, including The Gifted Teen Survival Guide, which he coauthored with Free Spirit president Judy Galbraith. He has been involved in the education and guidance of gifted kids and teens for almost 40 years.

Free Spirit books by Jim Delisle:

WhenGiftedKidsDon'tHaveAllTheAnswers GiftedTeenSurvivalGuide © FSP GrowingGoodKids

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10 Scenarios to Get Kids Talking About Anger

10 Scenarios to Get Kids Talking About AngerEveryone gets angry sometimes. It’s important that kids learn to recognize feelings of anger and express those feelings in healthy, positive ways. In group discussions, ask kids to imagine themselves in the following ten scenarios and provide answers for how they’d respond.

  1. During announcements, the person sitting behind you punches you in the back. You try to tell the teacher, but he only says to be quiet during announcements. What would you do?
  2. You’re excited about a friend’s upcoming birthday party, but then she says you aren’t invited. Her parents said she can only invite four people, and you aren’t one of them. What would you do?
  3. After school, you go to the room you and your sister share. You find her reading your diary. She starts laughing when you walk in. What would you do?
  4. You’re playing a video game when your mom gets home from work. She turns off the power and tells you to get going on homework—even though you don’t have any. All your progress in the game is lost. What would you do?
  5. You and your best friend have an argument. Your friend starts spending a lot of time with someone you don’t like. One day your friend’s new buddy tells you he is a better friend than you could ever be. What would you do?
  6. Someone you thought was a friend spreads a rumor about you. At lunch, you see the person sitting with a bunch of friends. They’re all looking at you and laughing. What would you do?
  7. You get back a spelling test and find out you’ve gotten half the words wrong. Another student who sits nearby says to you, “I got another perfect score and I didn’t even study.” What would you do?
  8. A teacher accuses you of cheating after you ace a test. When you try to defend yourself, the teacher says there is no way you could have gotten all of the right answers on your own. What would you do?
  9. Lately your parents have been fighting a lot. Your older brother says it’s your fault and the whole family would be a lot better off if you had never been born. What would you do?
  10. A person at school says you stole money from her because your family doesn’t have enough. In front of everyone, she says, “I’m not going to tell because I know how poor your family is.” What would you do?

Temper Tamers In a JarFor more scenarios, plus role playing activities, tips for calming anger, and discussion questions that get kids sharing their ideas for keeping their cool, check out Temper Tamers In a Jar®: Helping Kids Cool Off and Manage Anger.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Ten Chances to Win a Copy of Nobody!

Nobody! GiveawayThis month we’re giving away a copy of Nobody! A Story About Overcoming Bullying in School to ten lucky readers. Nobody!, a companion to the Weird series, helps children learn to deal with persistent bullying, overcome insecurities, and express feelings without hurting others.

To Enter: Leave a comment below telling us how you help kids deal with bullying.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment below for each of the following tasks that you complete:

Each comment counts as a separate entry. Entries must be received by midnight, July 24, 2015.

The winner will be contacted via email on or around July 28, 2015, and will need to respond within 72 hours to claim his or her prize or another winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way affiliated with, administered, or endorsed by Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Winner must be a U.S. resident, 18 years of age or older.

We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.

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Posted in Bullying & Conflict Resolution, Early Childhood, Free Spirit News | Tagged , , , , | 113 Comments