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Our Blog: February 13, 2024

Blast Off During Black History Month

February is Black History Month. The annual observance allows us to celebrate diversity and promote inclusion while acknowledging the achievements of African Americans who have left a lasting impact. Black History Month gives us the opportunity to highlight difference-makers in many fields who have influenced U.S. history, culture, and heritage.

In this blog, you’ll find the following topics. Click on each one to jump to that section:

The Legacy of Dr. Mae Jemison | Endeavor: In the News
Create Your Own Space Shuttle
 | Book Recommendations
Explore Your Local Community

The Legacy of Dr. Mae Jemison

Our craft this month is inspired by the legacy of one woman who will forever be known as the first female African American to travel to space. Born on October 17, 1956, Dr. Mae Jemison is an engineer, physician, former NASA astronaut, and motivational speaker. She served as a mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. During the STS-47 journey, Jemison and her crew orbited Earth for nearly eight days from September 12 to 20.

As a child, Jemison was always reaching for the stars. At age 16, she received a scholarship to attend Stanford University and graduated in 1977 with degrees in Chemical Engineering and African American Studies. She received a medical degree from Cornell University in 1981.

“I like to think of ideas as potential energy. They’re really wonderful, but nothing will happen until we risk putting them into action.”

Jemison says imagination, creativity, and curiosity are essential to making dreams come true, from the smallest thought to the biggest of possibilities. She encourages children to pay attention to the world around them and follow their natural skills to make a difference (even if it isn’t always easy!).

In the News

The retired Endeavour space shuttle was recently hoisted back up into launch position! It will be part of a new display to honor its contributions to NASA history at a museum in Los Angeles. It is 122 feet long with a wingspan of 78 feet. The building will be constructed around it before it opens to the public.

Click here to see the orbiter being lifted into place by a huge crane at the California Science Center. When it’s complete, the permanent display will make it look as if the Endeavour is ready to blast off!

Create a Space Shuttle

Feeling inspired yet? Each year, the President selects a new theme for Black History Month. The 2024 theme is African Americans and the Arts. Let’s embrace our own creative energy and make a rocket in honor of Jemison’s cosmic mission. Our friend Joshua (age 10) made his own to give you some ideas on how to get started. Let's see what you can create!

Gather some of these things:

  • Construction paper
  • Stickers
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tissue paper
  • Cardboard or upcycled cardboard tubes
  • Tape/glue
  • Craft sticks

Let your imagination soar! There are no specific instructions here. Follow your heart and let your creativity guide you to create what you see in your mind. Invite children to begin by sketching their designs. What parts are needed to make it a space shuttle? How will it lift off? How will it land?

Need some extra ideas to get you started?                                       

  • Perhaps your shuttle is flat with lots of colors, patterns, or stickers.
  • Consider using a triangle for the pointy top.
  • Try using a cardboard tube as the body and cover it in paper or foil.
  • Create tissue paper flames coming out of the back!
  • Perhaps you could give your shuttle a cool name.
  • Consider attaching a craft stick to zoom it around and narrate your mission to space.

Books That Celebrate Identity

Explore more about Mae’s historic journey by reading Mae Among the Stars by Roba Ahmed. Mae’s story is just one of MANY. Encourage your child to read other books about history-makers and celebrated Black History Month voices. Or simply start with representation! Try these age-appropriate titles:

  • Bein’ With You This Way by W. Nikola-Lisa 
  • Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry  
  • My Hair is Beautiful by Shauntay Grant
  • A Little Bit of Soul Food by Amy Wilson Sanger
  • Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney
  • Shades of People by Sheila M. Kelly and Shelley Rottner
  • Happy in our Skin by Fran Manushkin
  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

Explore Your Community

Look to your community for inspiration on how to honor Black History Month. Are there any events happening? Perhaps the library is holding a special event with a local author. Art galleries and museums often feature African-American culture during February, or all year long! See if any institutions or community centers are planning to host conversations, musical performances, or other experiences.

We hope you feel inspired to celebrate Black History Month by reaching for the stars.