8 classrooms in 5 hours. 30 minutes per class. Grade levels ranging from kindergarten to 6th grade. Unscripted, 1 index card of talking points. When I compare 'Career Day' at my kids' elementary school with my Ph.D. defense, that dissertation committee seems the easier audience-- fewer questions outside of my field.

This blog serves me well for my K12 talks. Many of the concepts I work with here-- what it's like to be a working astronomer, what motivates me, what neat science stuff have I come across-- are perfect for talking to school kids. I used much of material here when I talked there.

And the very spirit that motivates me to write here at SBing is the same force that ends up making me agree to speak to just about every class that needs to fill a slot. Call it a zeal for science, call it raving egotism, just don't call me late to dinner (*cymbal crash* thanks, I'll be here all night).

For those scientists who haven't yet done a school Career Day, I highly recommend it. The teachers are appreciative, the school supportive, and you have the easiest job in the world (or worlds). Kids love science. We get to cherrypick the coolest topics and preach to the converted.

So while teachers have the heavy lifting of teaching math, grammar, speling [sic], we get to talk dinosaurs and planets. They hand out textbooks, I pass around a meteorite fragment. And yet they compliment me on coming in. It's a racket, I tell ya, and you can get in on the action by simply volunteering!

My spiel this year was simple-- my name, served on 6 satellites, how much I get to use a telescope versus a computer, what rocket science is, the Pluto mock-troversy, our next steps forward, how they are the future. And as all my backlinks show, I wasn't kidding about using my blog to test out my material before going live (thanks, loyal readers! Both of ya!)

The hardest audience is always the kindergarteners. They don't yet have calculus down, their classical mechanics is rusty, and don't get me started on their grasp of soviet-era space idioms. Mostly, their questions are all over the place. Since you're live, you have to rapidly make connections within their concept frame, often in subject areas that you dimly recall (at best) from college years ago. It's fun.

Although I was happy to leave the daily teaching to the teachers, my one-day annual classroom tour is always a high point of my year. All said, a good time was had by all.

Alex, the daytime astronomer

The Daytime Astronomer, Tues&Fri here, via RSS feed, and twitter @skyday