The auditorium inside the Intermediate Unit 1 campus at McMurray was filled the morning of Wednesday November 16, 2022, with a crowd of people eager to hear from Dr. Andy Aldrin, son of Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
President of the Aldrin Family Foundation, Aldrin took the stage and charmed the audience full of educators, non-profits, elected officials, corporations and more by telling of his father’s love for going into classrooms and interacting with students who are eager to learn about space. He said that he saw the excitement when it came to studying space exploration and wanted to elevate the learning experience. It ended up being a 25-foot map at National Geographic, and NASA images revealing terrain and altitude on Mars, that led to the creation of the AFF Giant Moon and Mars Map program. There was such a positive student response to the maps, that from then on, the goal has been to embed the map-related projects into classrooms as part of statewide standards that have to be met. Dr. Aldrin and his father, along with Purdue University, began to build a curriculum so that not only would the maps be in the schools, but there would be lessons and projects to go along with them.
He went on to assure the crowd that their children will have the opportunity to work on the moon, as a basis for a space-based economy is in the works. The audience broke into laughter when he told the story of a student who expressed that he wanted to be a barista on the moon. Dr. Aldrin’s response to the student’s wishes was a ‘not if – when’ scenario. “The moon is an incredible place for tourism,” he proclaimed.
A testimonial about the impact the program has had on her students came from Trinity Area School District Director of Curriculum, Dr. Constance DeMore Savine. “This has been an amazing opportunity already for our students and our teachers,” she said, as she went on to elaborate on the ways that they have worked the maps and program resources into their curriculums. “So far it has been nothing but positive, and I can’t be more thankful for everybody’s assistance in helping to get this off the ground at Trinity.”
The crowd then made their way to the gymnasium to observe students from the Intermediate Unit 1 McMurray campus and Peters Township Middle School demonstrating how to sit and stand on the maps, maneuver the robots around them, and work on an assignment, all while learning about the Moon and Mars. The room was filled with smiles, laughs, and chatter as the students were eager to interact with the guests and explain to them just what they were working on.
The message that carried through the presentation’s entirety was that of his father’s passion for space and how he wanted to educate children who showed interest in it. “Kids love space,” Dr. Aldrin said his father quickly learned once he began working with students. “Kids love two things: they love space and dinosaurs. They get over dinosaurs, they do not get over space.”