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Leland Melvin Reaches Out to Young DC Students
Leland Melvin talks with students

Leland Melvin, NASA associate administrator for education and former space shuttle astronaut, speaks to students about his experience as an astronaut. Image Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

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About 40 lucky second- and fourth-grade students at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School in southeast Washington, D.C., got a special treat on Tuesday, Feb. 8. Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for education and two-time space shuttle astronaut, visited their school for a Black History Month event held in conjunction with Reading is Fundamental.

After the students were welcomed by their principal and RIF staff members, Melvin read aloud to them "The Moon Over Star," an award-winning book written by Diana Hutts Aston and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. It is the story of the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, as seen through the eyes of a young African-American girl named Mae.

The inspiration for the story's main character was Dr. Mae Jemison, NASA's first African-American female astronaut. She flew on space shuttle Endeavour in 1992.

After reading the book, Melvin took some time to share with the children stories of his youth. He also showed them a video of some of his experiences in space aboard the shuttle Atlantis in 2008 and 2009.

A student tries on a spacesuit glove

Students from Ferebee-Hope Elementary School in Washington, D.C., take turns trying on a glove from a spacesuit. Image Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

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Melvin told them of growing up in Lynchburg, Va., and of his love of science and math, and tinkering with things, and sports. When he asked the students how many of them liked sports, almost every hand shot into the air. He told them about how he got a football scholarship and even was drafted into the NFL. But when a bad hamstring injury sidelined his football career, it was his education -- science and engineering -- that led him to NASA. He began his career as a research scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center and was inducted into the astronaut corps in 1998. He emphasized the importance of a good education and encouraged them to study hard, listen to their parents and teachers, and eat their green beans, because health is an important part of being an astronaut!

When Melvin's presentation was finished, Betsy Pugel, a physicist from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, talked to the students and held a special "space show and tell" for them. She brought an actual moon rock, an Apollo-era space glove, and a replica of the first footprint on the moon. The students then had a chance for some hands-on activities and the opportunity to ask questions about NASA and space.

Leland Melvin holds up a book in front of students

Leland Melvin, NASA associate administrator for education and former space shuttle astronaut, reads to students from the book "The Moon Over Star" at Ferebee-Hope Elementary School. Image Credit: NASA/Carla Cioffi

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NASA participated in this Black History Month event with RIF as part of their DC Initiative, a program that serves nearly 15,000 children by distributing over 50,000 free books each year. RIF streamed yesterday's event live on their website. This allowed all DCI sites -- and many other schools across the nation -- to virtually participate in the event.

NASA has a broad education program that engages teachers and students from kindergarten through university post-graduate programs. NASA education uses the agency’s unique assets and exciting space endeavors to inspire students and encourage them to pursue curricula and careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM. It is a key part of NASA's effort to help build the nation’s future high-tech workforce and cultivate the next generation of explorers -- explorers who will continue to reach new heights and reveal the unknown so that the things we do and the things we learn will benefit all humankind.

Related Resources
› Flickr: Images from the NASA Event at Ferebee-Hope Elementary   →

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