Jeffrey Bennett is recent recipient of national award
The Daily Camera – December 14, 2013
Author: Amy Bounds – Camera Staff Writer
Jeffrey Bennett, a Boulder astrophysicist and educator, has already had one of his children’s books made into a planetarium show by Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium and read by an astronaut on the Space Shuttle Discovery’s final mission.
On Wednesday, as long as conditions are good, all five of his children’s books will be launched to the International Space Station as part of the new Story Time From Space program.
The books will be read by astronauts with a view of Earth in the background. The videos of the readings, along with videos of science demonstrations, then will be made available online.
“It’s really cool,” Bennett said. “Teachers, kids, anybody in the world will be able to watch them.”
Last week, Bennett and astronaut Alvin Drew, who read his book from the space station in 2011, spoke at the National Science Teachers Association conference in Denver about the project.
Bennett’s first four books revolve around a dog, Max, and his adventures in space — he goes to the moon, Mars, Jupiter and the International Space Station. Bennett said he uses Max’s story to teach science concepts. The fifth book is about a wizard who saves the world from global warning.
His book “Max Goes to the Moon” recently won Bennett the 2013 Science Communications Award in the children’s category for “Max Goes to the Moon.” He’ll be honored for that award next month in Washington, D.C.
“When I’m writing them, I’m thinking about the science concepts I want to teach,” said Bennett, whose main job is writing college science textbooks.
He said the science is explained in sidebars, allowing younger students to enjoy the stories and older ones to delve more deeply into the concepts behind them.
Space, he said, is an easy hook to teach science.
“They’re naturally interested,” he said. “If you ask a room full of 5 year olds, ‘Who wants to go to space,’ they all raise their hands. We have to inspire them to make the effort it takes to learn. They can change their perspective on themselves and their planet.
“If we can get kids to have that inspiration when they’re young, hopefully they’ll continue with that throughout their lives.”