Saturday, March 22, 2008

Mercury Seven Program rockets to success!

Last Saturday 73 children and parents heard a short talk about the early space program and then 35 kids [see photo] built some very imaginative rocket mobiles at the library's Mercury Seven program which marked the 50th anniversary of NASA and the announcement of America’s first space program, Project Mercury.

It can be a challenge trying to explain what the Cold War was to a second grader when there isn’t any cold war anymore and there isn’t any Soviet Union anymore, and they never had to practice ducking under their desk for a nuclear bomb while hearing the siren drills. Just what was so important about when Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom and John Glenn made their rides into space? It is difficult to see why something with a funny name like Sputnik, a thing not much bigger than a basketball and not capable of doing anything but making meaningless radio beeps for a few months, was such a big deal when now you can get a zillion channels from space just like that. In this age of the space shuttle it is hard to believe that people actually sat on the tip of a rocket and got blasted into the sky and then got back by falling into the ocean and being plucked out like a bobbing rubber duck by a helicopter. How do you make children understand that a scenario so seemingly unsophisticated and improbable was a cause of great national pride and that so much hung on the outcome?.

Well that is, I suppose, what the idea of this whole Burbank Reads program is all about, putting everyone on the same page, looking at shared historic events and then placing ourselves again at the intersection between those and the line of our own lives and trying to explain the meaning we found there and has followed us, even to those most distant from both. Which is how a sense of community is built, and why the memoir Rocket Boys is such a well chosen vehicle.

Thanks to Hubert for the program and the recap!

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