David Ewart, Schreder Planetarium in Redding

David Ewart. Photo: Michael Burke Photography www.burkephotography.biz

David Ewart. Photo: Michael Burke Photography http://www.burkephotography.biz

April 12, 1981 was a powerful day for David Ewart, Director of the Schreder Planetarium in Redding. While thousands of Americans watched the successful launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia on television, Ewart and his family were at the Kennedy Flight Center in Florida for the event. “The moment is still fresh in my mind as I watched the rockets ignite and felt the air respond to the thrust at lift off,” he says.

The experience was one of many childhood adventures that opened Ewart’s mind to the wonders of science. With frequent family trips to museums, science centers and observatories, Ewart says he was soon on a path of fascination with exploration and discovery, and began finding profound science experiences throughout life.

To say that Ewart is now motivated to share his love of science with kids is an understatement. After teaching for 11 years in Shasta County schools, Ewart has spent the past six years working at the Schreder Planetarium in Redding, developing a number of programs for children, including science summer camps and a Community Science Intern (CSI) program.

Brandi Hansen of Redding is one of many parents whose children have benefited from these programs. Hansen’s 12-year-old daughter Sofia has spent a portion of her last three summers attending camps with Ewart. After experiencing learning opportunities ranging from structural engineering to video software editing, Sofia has decided to pursue a future in astrobiology, a career choice she learned about in the camps.

“Mr. Ewart really inspires and drives the kids,” Hansen says, noting that the children learn even more from being able to apply the science in tangible ways. “They’ve had the opportunity to learn real science out in the field and do things themselves. My kids came away from camp really excited about science.”

Sofia is planning to join other seventh through twelfth grade students in Ewart’s CSI program this year. Interns in the yearlong leadership program work with and inspire their peers by learning, teaching and demonstrating scientific experiments. “I really like learning about the different sciences and how they fit together,” Sofia says. “I also enjoy the chance to operate new kinds of technology and like being part of a team.”

Barbara Mehr is a teacher at the Academy of Personalized Learning, a charter school in Redding, who says that under Ewart’s guidance, CSI students become ambassadors of science in the community. “The kids learn science standards in a hands-on, concrete way, then develop mini-lab exhibits, and teach school groups of all ages,” she says. “They learn that science is fun and rewarding, and at the same time they internalize difficult concepts. Mr. Ewart facilitates this all with humor, playfulness and respect, creating a truly dynamic learning experience.”

After participating in CSI for two years, Mehr’s 15-year-old son Noah says that the program gave him a strong background in science, which he refers back to often for his high school classes. “I learned a lot from teaching and working with all kinds of different people. It was a great life experience.” Noah thinks highly of Mr. Ewart and recommends the program to other young people. “He’s like a giant kid with big dreams and visions. He loves kids and is a huge asset to our community.”

Ewart credits his colleagues for sharing their excitement and passion for teaching with him. He sees a direct relationship between his excitement for a topic as a teacher, and his students’ motivation for learning. “Their learning spiked when I led them into real project-based learning. Involving students in NASA mission-based projects have really fueled their interests.”

Ewart says some of his most interesting discoveries are the kids themselves. “Children continually exceed my expectations about what they are capable of learning.”

Even when he’s not working, Ewart enjoys all things science and nature. His favorite pastimes include hiking, traveling and exploring new places of interest with his family. Whether in the great outdoors or in a lab full of young people, Ewart is open to discovery and enjoying the journey of life every step of the way.

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Pamela Llano
About Pamela Llano

Pamela Jorrick is a northern California writer and homeschooling parent.

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