What my little ‘rocket man’ will need to succeed in a STEM career

Tomás and I spent about 15 minutes clicking through various motion graphics that explained what gravitational waves were. It was time to go to school, but Tomás begged for one more video that was lurking in the corner of the screen. Turns out, it was this video on NASA’s recruitment for the next generation of astronauts.

Tomás watched, spellbound, his mouth agape as he listened to how NASA was building the next generation of astronauts. I watched him, watching them. When the news segment shifted to the skills that astronauts would need, he smiled.

A little globe appeared with the words “Bachelor’s degree in math, science, or engineering.”

The NASA astronaut selection manager then noted, “Good communications skills. The ability to work successfully on a team, both as a leader and a follower.”

And the chief astronaut appeared in uniform, adding, “Would you want to go camping with somebody that you can’t get along with, and spend a week in the woods with them, let alone two years in a tent?” (a reference to the length of time a Mars trip would take).

NASA needs 8 to 14 new astronauts.

And yet the number of online applications for the job exceeds 6,000.

For our kids who want to be astronauts, or scientists, or anything else, the competition will be fierce. They’ll need to be at the top of their game in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

They’ll need to be rigorous and disciplined learners. They will need to test their learning at every level. They will need accurate and timely feedback on their progress. They will need to accept difficult assignments, tests, and projects with grace and perseverance. They will need to be intellectually curious. They will need to be compassionate, empathetic, and cooperative.

If they are astronauts, they will need the conviction that they can move the human race forward to the stars and planets beyond the moon.

They will need to dream. They will need to know. They will need to achieve.

That’s a tall order. And it starts when they’re little. The next generation… that’s him, I thought, looking at Tomás.

As we headed out to the bus stop, I stopped him and asked, “So, do you want to be an astronaut?”

Tomás grabbed the doorframe and looked up at me intensely. “No, Mama,” he said, shaking his head. “No. I want to be a physicist.” “A scientist who is a physicist,” he repeated.

He has his work cut out for him. Let’s hope we can get him there.

This is an excerpt of a blog that appeared on How is My Kid Doing? Click here to see a video of Tomás.

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Carla Uriona

Carla Uriona

Carla’s greatest inspiration in life is her classical pianist mother who taught her that no dream was too big. Carla is an expert at climbing treehouses, biking, and building contraptions with her 6-year-old, Tomas. She writes about what it’s like to be a parent raising a curious, resilient kid in the series The Bathtub Moment. The idea for creating "How Is My Kid Doing" came to Carla as she was exploring education issues as a parent for the first time. She wanted to create a space for all parents to talk in an open, respectful environment that was conducive to thoughtful conversations, even when we disagree. For more details on How is My Kid Doing, please check out their videos and stories at http://howismykiddoing.com/. Follow Carla on Twitter @uriona.

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