If you’re not already familiar with Luciana Vega- she’s American Girl’s Girl of the Year for 2018. An aspiring astronaut, Luciana has dreams of landing on Mars. So when Luciana made her way to the Bronx a few weeks ago (thanks American Girl!), who better to pay a visit to than our very own Jupiter Joe, who brings astronomy to families all over the Bronx. On a clear night, Luciana grabbed her telescope and we headed to one of Joe’s sidewalk astronomy sessions- where he brings out his telescope for anyone interested to take a look at the nightsky. While gazing at the moon, we asked Joe to share some advice for kids who are interested in astronomy- read along to learn more.
Meet Jupiter Joe
As an amateur astronomer, I try and educate the public about astronomy but I know that Astronomy is more than just what you can see through a telescope. That’s why I am quite happy to see that American Girl has taken the opportunity to showcase such an amazing doll that breaks away from what has made the product line so famous. Often you will see companies try and introduce a product that deviates from their standard offerings, they do so in an introductory way, one core product and possibly an accessory or two to see how sales progress. Not here – American Girl introduced a “presence”; Luciana isn’t just your American Girl Doll, she’s a character in your life. She is an instant role model that helps define some of the goals young girls need to aspire to.
Luciana checking out the moon
I often come out here with my telescopes and props to get people inspired, to encourage them- and very often a big part of that is asking kids “would you like to work for NASA?” I often get, yes I want to be an astronaut- which is great, but there are times children say, no I want to be fireman, a police man, etc…. and I express to them that virtually any non-sports related profession can find a home in the Space Program. That’s why I find all of the accessories that are available for Luciana to be so important, from her core astronaut focused accessories through the supportive accessories like her Maker Lab. It shows that there is a variety of interest that a person can have, they don’t necessarily have to be an astronaut- they can be a rover engineer, a payload specialist, a robotics engineer…endless opportunities.
The view of the moon through Jupiter Joe’s telescope
Based on data from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology when looking at New York trends over the past decade- findings show that Hispanics are continually among those that have less interest in a STEM occupation compared to the national average- which for me reinforces the need to have these strong childhood connections. American Girl’s focus to make Luciana engage-able online with activities and links to projects is an important role in bridging that gap.
While the activities and resources are wonderful, my hope is that they inspire children to research other resources like NASA Kids’ Club or even my own program Jupiter Joe’s Sidewalk Astronomy. And for those kids that want to get the full hands on experience, there really is no better place to visit that the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on their FREE Astronomy Nights- where they get to see spaceships, hear lectures, learn what its like to be an astronaut and also look through a fascinating assortment of telescopes. This year Family Astronomy Night’s are on May 11, June 8, July 20 , Aug 3 and Sept 20. These are all great ways for children, especially those in underserved communities, to get involved in reaching for the stars.
For more information on Luciana, head over to www.americangirl.com. There you’ll find all of her amazing accessories, learn STEM activities, join her on interactive missions, and even learn how STEM inspired her story!
Want to send your name to the sun? Right now, families can submit their names and they will be included in a memory card that will fly aboard Parker Solar Probe spacecraft. Check it out!
We received product to facilitate this post. As always, all opinions and ideas are our own. Thanks to Jupiter Joe for bringing additional information to this fun post!