The #PlutoFlyBy created a curiosity explosion for me this summer.  I couldn’t get enough.  I watched the moment more than once on NASA TV when the teams reported to the Mission Operation Manager (MOM).  It is fascinating to see a team receive word that their 10 year old question was answered.  Yes, it was a 10 year old question!  (Wow – to have that much perseverance in my curiosity… but that is another post).

In the video, you can see the scientists trying to stay reserved and professional as they receive word that their decade of work and waiting has paid off.  During the second report to “MOM” you hear the man’s voice crack and you see the tears in the eyes of the person seated next to “MOM”.   It makes you want to stand up and cheer.  I watched it again and again – with my husband and each child individually to see their faces when they heard the news.  To me, this scene represents the joy of a question answered, magnified.  It is human nature to co-celebrate such a moment.

I mean, c’mon… we made it to Pluto?!? AND the New Horizons spacecraft has enough battery to keep going into the Kuiper Belt for the next 20 years!  Does that not explode your brain?

Maybe not.  We all have our interests and curiosities.  Let’s just say I’ve been motivated to dust off Dr. Who and watch NASA live T.V. more than once this summer.  It’s kind of my thing, I guess.

No matter if space travel, or even science is your passion, you are curious and interested in certain pursuits, right?  And if we believe the brain research behind curiosity (a post coming soon) then we realize that, for our students, it is important to ask and live bigger questions for extended amounts of time.  If it is good for our younger learners, it is good for us, too.

So how do we language our learning and talk about our questions with other colleagues and our students?  There is a science to it… no pun intended.

During a live broadcast on NASA TV, the introduction included this quote:

“Science never sleeps.”

That quote was striking to me.  The beautiful language and image in that brief sentence… it made me want to listen more carefully to the language of the astrophysicists and aerospace engineers as they shared their data.  I wondered, “how do scientists speak about their findings?”  Following are some quotes from the New Horizons team during a briefing on July 24 with my thoughts in green regarding HOW they are talking about their thinking.

“our interpretation of the source of that nitrogen snow…

Did you catch that?  “Our interpretation”, meaning “we are tentative, but our current thinking on the matter is…”

“or perhaps by a process we haven’t thought about…”

Staying humble and realizing that science is an ever-growing body of knowledge…

“we have tremendous data sets… we are going to be able to tell this story very well over the next year”

Celebrating data… and realizing that data unfolds the story of our natural world (How cool is it that astrophysicists talk like this?)…

“This is a spectacular image – a silhouette of pluto – you see above the dark disk of Pluto a…

Wonder in the details of their work…

“In the past we thought that Charon was icy and Pluto had much more rock, but now we are learning that….”

Scientists stay curious, always ready to revise their thinking based on new learning…

“If you have a massive enough layer of these kinds of ices, it will move if there is a significant slope.  It will move.  Our leading model is internal convective movement. We think … driven from the heat leaking from the interior of Pluto.

Using current knowledge and applying it cautiously to this new learning…

“We do have a good bit of imagery where we will be able to…”

Hope in continued learning…

“… so this shrinking atmosphere, is pluto heading toward a freeze out?”

New learning leads to more questions… “Now we are wondering…”

“Pluto is a very complex world” Dr. Stern summarized, “Data is raining down, and we will stay in tune.  This conversation is going to go on for a long time.”

Reminding that this is a very big topic to study… that the current thinking will continue to evolve as we learn more….


So what about our work?  How might these models of talk guide us as we work to lead with more curiosity?  I think we could take a lesson from these scientists and engineers.  Maybe we could apply HOW they talk about their questions and learning to how we talk together as educators.

Scientists ARE….      and they SAY…

Tentative                   “Our current thinking”

Humble                      “Or perhaps there is another explanation we haven’t thought of yet”

Fascinated                “This is a spectacular thing… do you see right here where…”

Hopeful                      “This is just the beginning.  We know we will learn more together.”

Forever Curious      “Now we are wondering…”



Children are complex.  We do not have our craft completely figured out yet.  I don’t know about you, but I need these examples as reminders when I speak about learning and learners.

From the list, I’m setting a goal to be more fascinated – in students, in possibilities, and in the everyday nature of learning.  What about you?  Which attribute do you wish to embrace and model more as you think about your work this year?

I’m going to keep this language near me as I aspire to think and speak with more fascination and curiosity this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation