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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Inspires Walla Walla Youth

by School's Out Washington | | Posted under STEM

The Walla Walla 21st Century Youth with Dr. Tyson (center)

by Brent Cummings, Walla Walla Public Schools

Passionate! Charismatic! Humorous! Celebrity!!! Scientist?!? That’s right, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the world’s sexiest astrophysicist (as proclaimed by no-lesser an authority than People magazine) wowed a packed Walla Walla audience at Cordiner Hall on Whitman College’s campus earlier this fall. Fortunately, through tremendous community collaboration, 350 of our Walla Walla Public Schools’ 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) after school program students witnessed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (set aside a couple minutes to view The Cosmic Perspective firsthand).

A champion of scientific literacy, Neil DeGrasse Tyson inspired our students through a combination of scientific observation and humorous, dynamic discourse.

The long-term impact of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s time in Walla Walla on our students will continue to manifest itself over the course of their academic careers. The scientific knowledge and insights shared by Dr. Tyson were “eye-opening” for the many youth in attendance.

More important than the emphasis Dr. Tyson placed on the diversity of ideas and the empirical, objective observation necessary to scientific advancement and discovery, was his intense embodiment of the Habits of Mind. Learning, particularly scientific learning, necessitates a non-cognitive skill set which often must manifest itself before the cognitive side of learning can occur. Questioning and problem solving, thinking and communicating with clarity and precision, striving for accuracy, creating, imagining, and innovating, to name a few, are the skills we must continually develop and foster in our students.

Brent Cummings

Brent Cummings

As the Program Director for the Walla Walla Public Schools’ 21st CCLC after school programs, I could not pass up the opportunity to expose my students to the genius and passion of one of the world’s preeminent scientists. An effort of this magnitude, though, required significant community support. The overwhelming assistance provided by the many individuals, businesses, and organizations in Walla Walla to bring this event to fruition demonstrated there is a latent, passionate scientist residing deep within all of us.

Sometimes, this inner-scientist, our inherent curiosities, lead us to question our world and push the envelope of discovery; often times though, the process requires a guide. As educators, it is imperative we embrace our role as guides. We must continuous lead our students to unexpected places where they get the chance to respond with wonderment and awe. When you occasionally lose your way, like the early navigators, look to the stars. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, thanks for being a star and imparting in us a cosmic perspective.Brent Cummings serves as the Program Director for the 21st Century Community Learning Center initiative managed by Walla Walla Public Schools. This program’s ongoing success rates, significantly higher than expected, reflect Brent’s passion for educating at-risk youth in after school environments. The unique methodologies and curricula utilized in the WWPS 21st CCLC programs captivate all youth, whose intense engagement prepares them for future success.

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