A Sense of Wonder

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I remember being in a high school science class when the teacher began talking about stars. I didn’t want to listen because I preferred to think of stars as twinkly little sparkles that didn’t have any scientific explanation. Clearly, I was not in a place for a “teachable moment.”  If only David Aguilar’s books about the solar system had been available, I might have been able to both continue wishing on stars and learn how truly wondrous they are.

I heard Aguilar talk about his new book, Super Stars, today, and it was so fascinating that during the hour he spoke, I was thinking about how to devote the next ten years to learning about astronomy. How did I miss knowing about exoplanets and astroids and and telescopes the size of football fields and stars “that beat like your heart…”

Aguilar was one of six speakers at a conference I attended today – A Sense of Wonder: Stories of Nature, Science & History – presented by the John F. Kennedy Library and the Kennedy National Historic Site.  The speakers were all terrific – Aguilar, Joy Hakim, Wendell Minor, Sy Montgomery, Anita Silvey and Catherine Thimmesh. I came home with pages of notes about books I want to add to Inly’s collection and include on our summer reading list.

The best part of their presentations was that every one of the authors stressed the importance of curiosity – to their work, to children and teachers and families. Several of them talked about how, as children, they wanted to be outdoors digging and exploring and putting mice in their jacket pockets. One of them even mentioned using their mother’s nylons as butterfly nets. I was feeling a bit nervous about my relative lack of outdoor experience, until Joy Hakim said: “I found my wonders in books.” I could breathe easier after Hakim’s reminder that the wonders between the pages are as valuable and inspiring as those other children find by getting their hands dirty.

Over the next few days, I’ll feature some of the books I learned about at today’s conference. In the meantime, I’m going outside to see if there are any stars shining tonight.

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