Pecan Trees and Space: Helping Students See How STEM Can Develop

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(Photo submitted by Don Morgan)

(Photo submitted by Don Morgan)

-Guest post by Don Morgan

So what do pecan trees and space have to do with each other? I’ll get to that later in the story.

On September 26, I had the privilege of chaperoning West Limestone High School students to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The West Limestone students are pictured above in front of the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft at the Center. Many of the students reported that this was their first science field trip since the 5th grade and they were very excited.

Now back to the pecan trees and space. Many years ago my dad asked me to help him plant a few trees. When I asked what kind of trees they were, I was delighted to hear him say they were pecan trees. Mom always cooked the best pecan pie and I was looking forward to getting another pecan pie to eat soon. So I asked my dad, when will these trees make pecans? My dad replied, “In about 15 years.” I was very disappointed. But he went on to say, “If you don’t plant them now you will never have pecans.”

The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) education program is a lot like planting pecan trees. It takes a lot of time and work up front, but you have to start or you’ll never get there. ViaSat is a California high technology company that is very supportive of STEM education programs across this country. And ViaSat believes in the long-term investment and benefits of STEM. When asked to sponsor students at a North Alabama school on a science field trip, they responded quickly in the affirmative, without hesitation.

So on Thursday, 26 September, 2013, the seeds of engineering and math results (putting a man on the moon) were planted in the minds of the next generation. So maybe, just maybe, one or more of these West Limestone High School students will take us to the next journey in space.

Click here to see a video slideshow of the students’ field trip.

-Don Morgan is the Director of Huntsville Operations for ViaSat