As we prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 20, I find myself reflecting on the importance of inspiration. After all, “to inspire” is in both the Gateway to Science mission and vision statements that guide every exhibit we develop, every program we present, and every decision we make. Inspiration is that important.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy set into motion a grand vision for exploration and discovery when he boldly proclaimed, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Eight years later, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. In watching the culmination of the ambitious USA space program, the Apollo program inspired a whole generation to study science, technology, engineering and math.
When a child is inspired, you can see it on their face and in their body language. How can we inspire children in 2019 to explore STEM? It’s a lot like getting them to try a sport such as hockey. They start very young by sliding on the ice, then comes their first pair of skates and perhaps lessons or enrollment in a program at the local ice rink. Meanwhile, they watch hockey games, both in-person and on TV, where they can be inspired by role models. As a community, we provide them with quality programs and excellent facilities to encourage them.
We should do no less for children as they explore STEM. From a young age, children should be given opportunities to participate in quality STEM programs in an excellent facility. They should be inspired by role models and encouraged by parents and caregivers. Children should see themselves in the role models of science professionals working in the community and portrayed the media.
In November, Gateway to Science will mark our 25th anniversary of inspiring the scientist in everyone. We have a lot of work to do before we can say, “mission accomplished,” and we will never really be finished. However, we are inspired by the vision first imagined by our founding scientist, Frank Koch. His original vision has been growing and moving forward since 1994.
~Beth Demke, Executive Director