Todd J. Barber, Cassini lead propulsion engineer
A few Cassini scientists and engineers recently participated in the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. This annual event usually attracts some JPL attendees, specifically from Cassini, and I was fortunate enough to be included for the first time this year. I surely hope it won't be my last encounter with this unique event, one that has so much to teach us about the art of storytelling. Science results from Cassini, and NASA in general, offer an inherently compelling story, and our goal was to improve the way we share the excitement and allure of space science with the public. We all agreed that storytelling is a wonderful way to do this.
Before the Storytelling Festival itself, however, we took advantage of our co-location in a distant zip code to participate in a wonderful educator workshop. I'm sure many teachers are already familiar with Cassini's wonderful "Reading, Writing, and Rings" curriculum, but there are new, exciting modules in education geared for bringing space science into the classroom. Despite a bit of jet lag for this admitted West Coast night owl, I was instantly energized with a kick-off speech by the incomparable Donald Davis, storyteller extraordinaire. He regaled us with tales of his dynamic fourth grade teacher, Ms. Daisy, and we were spellbound during his entire speech about a classroom virtual trip around the world. We were fortunate enough to see him again and again at the festival, along with other top-tier storytellers such as Kathryn Windham and Bil Lepp. If you ever get a chance to check them out, please do.
During our two-day educator workshop, we beta-tested some of the new modules for local educators, and they couldn't have been more receptive and helpful with their comments. I only wish I were able to stay a bit longer and enjoy this lovely part of the country. However, my spacecraft and its impending Enceladus-5 flyby were calling me to Pasadena -- renewed, invigorated, and full of wonderful stories. As always, each time I'm able to sit down with teachers and see how much they care about the next generation, I'm deeply moved. I look forward to continuing to share the unfolding story of Cassini's extended mission with newfound poetry and perspective, in this column and through my outreach efforts. Without a doubt, the story of Cassini and Saturnian science is a rich one, worthy of being told.