ESRL Global Systems Division

Earth Systems Research Laboratory - Global Systems Division: Outreach/Education

Sally Ride Science™

Colorado Girls Explore Hands-On Science

NOAA Boulder Outreach Coordinators at the Sally Ride Festival in Colorado Springs
NOAA Boulder Outreach Coordinators
at the Sally Ride Festival in Colorado Springs

September 13 was one of those picturesque “Indian Summer” Saturdays; perfect for an outdoor festival.  Against a backdrop of the scenic Rocky Mountains, Sally Ride Science™ set up for a day of science discovery and fun on the student center plaza of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS).

The NOAA Boulder Labs joined a dozen or so other booths on the plaza to display their science and technology and hand out educational resources.  Earlier that week Boulder Outreach and Coordinating Council (BOCC) members rounded up hundreds of NOAA posters to hand out.  The bold colorful graphics attracted swarms of onlookers. Data-based posters like Nighttime Lights of the World, Surface of the Earth, and the GEBCO World Oceans sparked many educational exchanges between the girls and outreach coordinators.  David Khaligi of UCCS said, “The NOAA table was hit with participants!” With several hundred girls and their parents, teachers, and mentors attending, it’s no surprise that the NOAA’s supplies were nearly depleted before the audience assembled to hear Sally Ride’s keynote address.

Sally Ride addressing an engaged audience
Sally Ride addressing an engaged audience eager to learn all about "Reaching for the Stars"
An engaged audience listens to Sally Ride

An enthusiastic Dr. Ride, America’s first woman in space, captured the attention of eager listeners with her stories of space adventure and how she made her dream of becoming an astronaut come true.  She answered questions like, “What was your favorite thing about being in space?”; “Were you afraid before lift off?”; and “What kind of subjects did you study in school?”  The answers being, “second to none, weightlessness”; “YES!”; and “English, Math, and Science” were the basis of in depth and interesting answers that revealed Ride’s family background, social situation of the times, and personal character.

NCDC Scientist, Carrie Morrill
NCDC Scientist, Carrie Morrill, in her workshop "Climate Detective"
Workshop "Climate Detective"

After the assembly with Sally Ride, participants broke out into groups to attend hands-on science workshops. Two NOAA Boulder scientists presented their relevant expertise in interactive sessions for the remainder of the afternoon.  Robin Warnken of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center wowed her classes with the power of Earth’s destructive hazards (earthquakes and tsunamis) in her plate-tectonics talk titled, “Shake Rattle and Roll”. Carrie Morrill of the National Climatic Data Center busied her classes with an engaging exercise in paleoclimatology, titled, “Climate Detective” in which the budding scientists explored sediment samples and how they tell a story about past climate.  Both women talked to the girls about what it’s like to have a career in science and expanded on possibilities outside their own areas of study.

Like Sally Ride Science™ and the festival’s generous sponsors, Northrop Grumman Foundation, ConocoPhillips and UCCS, NOAA too is dedicated to fueling girls’ and boys’ interests in science, math, and technology and will certainly return next year if this becomes an annual event at UCCS.