Grace from Outer Space: An App That Will Get Kids Excited About STEM, Learning About Space, and Thinking About the Future

When I was a kid, I loved “Star Trek”. I watched episodes from the classic television series starting at about age 6, and then followed “Star Trek: The Next Generation” regularly as a teen (I even had pictures of Ensign Crusher on my wall… fast forward about 15 years, and I’m tweeting a picture of that picture to Wil Wheaton himself, who then posted about it on his blog, but I digress). Which movie is my favorite? Nothing beats Star Trek IV, for me, and yes a lot of it has to do with the humpback whales.

I loved other-worldly characters like Rainbow Bright; she was all about light and stars and elements, and even featured “magical” planets. I had a rock tumbler, a science chemical kit, and at one point wanted to go to space camp (I got the brochure and everything, although, both the price of attendance and my serious problem with nausea prevented me from fulfilling that dream).

Now a grown woman, I want to bring the kind of inspiration from my childhood to the kids of the 21st century. Specifically, I want to interest girls. Little girls. Although I was very interested in science and space as a child, I didn’t know anything about the subjects. Once I got to high school, I couldn’t keep up and did poorly in math and never even took physics. Instead, I became a creative type, which seemed to be my strong suit.

I think, however, if I had had a good understanding of space and basic scientific concepts as a young child, this knowledge would’ve given me the confidence to continue pursuing S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects in my higher education.

All of this is to say why I created ‘Grace from Outer Space’: a fictional, but scientifically factual, rhyming picture book for kids (currently in campaign-mode on Kickstarter, until July 15th, 2013, to raise funds to turn this story into a super-cool, interactive eBook app for the iPad). The main character is a colorful, curious, intergalactic girl named ‘Grace’. She lives on a space ship with her parents (her mother is a scientist, her father is a pilot) and her dog, Moonfruit. In reading the book, children will learn about comets, the rings of Saturn, and will even be exposed to more complex theories such as dark energy.

grace looking into space

So, what does this have to do with space industry news? ‘Grace’ represents an ideal Utopian future of a space-faring civilization. In further stories, which will be written as adventurous narratives, we’ll see where ‘Grace’ goes to school, aboard an intergalactic academy, learning alongside different lifeforms from other planets. We’ll learn about ‘Grace’s’ solar system (did you notice she has three stars on her clothing? I imagine she might call a triple star system home, possibly Gliese667, which I read about prior to designing the look of the character, as I researched which solar systems might have habitable planets).

In each story, the reader will find ‘Grace’ learning something new about the universe, while at the same time, helping someone in need, which is an overall wonderful way to live life (expressed perfectly by one of my favorite people, Neil deGrasse Tyson, when he said, “For me, I am driven by two main philosophies: know more today about the world than I knew yesterday and lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”)

And I think what might be even more amazing about this concept, which started with the idea for a simple children’s picture book, is that it’s adaptable to many different forms of media, which would bring ‘Grace’ and her science-based educational components to even more children. Imagine songs about space, interactive learning games, and perhaps an animated television show, all of which would teach kids about space and science through the adventures of the main character.

The bottom line is this: at some point in time, if humanity continues to grow and flourish, we will have to leave the planet. Maybe we’ll colonize Mars, first, but eventually the sun will die and we’ll have to vacate the solar system altogether if our species wishes to survive. It’s a dramatic and somewhat bleak outlook, but it’s true. What ‘Grace’ does, however, is represent a positive and proactive distant future, a future that we can start aligning ourselves with today. I think by combining the storytelling element to science through a concept like ‘Grace from Outer Space’, we’ll get kids thinking about this early on, about the future of life, and how they can one day be part of creating the technologies and solving the problems of tomorrow.

Moreover, I think this is especially important for girls to learn, that they can and should be part of the equation, as women currently hold just 24% of all jobs in S.T.E.M. I think if we’re ever going to be interstellar travelers, we’re going to need the ideas and imagination of both men and women.

Who are the creators of the space industry of the near future? It’s the children of today, of course, and I think it’s children who are (will be) fans of ‘Grace from Outer Space’. Stories and ideas are powerful; they can help affect positive change in and inspire the world of tomorrow. I probably won’t be around to experience the space-faring civilization of the future, but I can help to inspire the manifestation of this way-of-life.  Just as “Star Trek” got me wondering about the universe, if this story, this character can inspire at least one child, one girl, to look up at the stars and say, “I want to go there!” then I’ve done my part.

To be part of the grassroots coalition to support and bring this story to life, you can pledge to and share the project on Kickstarter, like the project on facebook, watch videos about the project on YouTube, and follow tweets from ‘Grace’ on Twitter.

Jenna Bryson

Jenna is a charismatic author of a childrens science and technology book series called “Grace from Outer Space” and a contributor to Space Industry News.

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