Picture this. Because I don’t have one, because it was too awesome to stop for one.
I teach a writing workshop to a group of kids between the ages of 7 and 12. We meet once every two weeks and embark on different writing adventures. We’ve created poems. They wrote stories with animals for characters. We’ve explored the personal narrative and we’ve written object essays.
I decided to introduce our workshop to writing news stories. Look at your newspaper. Look at your news screen. There are not very many stories that are respectable or decent enough to share with children. It is really almost impossible. There is death, destruction, and more death. And if it isn’t death it is a scandal or political. But, this week, SpaceX was the news as they prepared for today’s rocket launch.
I would like to personally thank Elon Musk for being wealthy enough and brave enough and smart enough to send a gigantic rocket into space today.
I found some interesting news stories about this “experiment”. This wasn’t fake news. It is very real news. It is scientific, it is crazy, it is informative, it is brave, it is smart, it is history, it is progress, it is questionable. My favorite question at workshop was, “Why didn’t he send an old beat up car that doesn’t work anymore instead of a perfectly good car.” Followed by, “What will he drive now?”
After dissecting news stories for the who, what, when, where, why, how, and some quotes, and a lead and a headline, we spent time working on our own news stories - “Something happened to grandmas car”, “Our car is about to turn over 100,000 miles and we are going to push it that 100,000 mile because there is a song about a family that did this”, “It is spring,” “the Eagles won the Super Bowl,” “Squirrels ate the squirrel feed we made,” “My dad just received $500 worth of new tools from a company that could not replace his battery for his nut driver,” and “Friend struggling with appendectomy recovery”. I am so impressed with their ability to find news. And I would so much rather read these stories than the current offerings.
As you can only imagine, an hour of sitting and doing this leads to some squirms, so we set the kids loose to play. Within the hour, the launch that we had just read about was set for take off.
I called the kids inside to stand around my 8x11 inch laptop screen to watch the launch. A launch that wasn’t necessarily set to actually succeed, but hopefully. Elon Musk himself said, It will be a great rocket launch or the best fire works display.” Fifteen kids shouted down the count down. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Lift off!” And the rocket launched and worked and it was incredible and it was beautiful and scientific and crazy and informative and brave and smart and history and progress and questionable. They cheered and shouted as it succeeded! Suddenly they had the thought that, because we are not too too far away, they might be able to see it. They ran outside and FOUND THE ROCKET SHOOTING THROUGH THE SKY!!!!
I remember like it was yesterday, January 28, 1986. This day, I was in 4th grade. We knew the shuttle, loaded with our heroes, was headed to space. We knew it was going. Then we knew it didn’t make it. Our entire school gathered and cried and sat in silence in our chapel and prayed. We were in shock. We didn’t know what to think or feel. It was a disaster. It was not good.
Today, there were no humans on that rocket, and — it made it. It was successful. It wasn’t a disaster. A crew of children sat and stared and smiled in amazement. They watched the boosters simultaneously land back on the launch pad and laughed at the shiny red car playing a crazy song they don’t know. And instead of mourning a disaster, we celebrate and dream.