Returning from the AAS: Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015


The Seattle monorail system. I first saw this in 1968 when my family visited the Seattle World’s Fair.

Our last day in Seattle we had a later flight than most of the other teams, so I packed up my bags and met my remaining three students down in the lobby. Kendall had already departed for Washington, D.C.. I walked with Elena, Julie, and Rosie to get some breakfast at Top Pot Doughnuts, not too far from the hotel. We had established a kind of tradition on our trip to Caltech when we discovered Randy’s Donuts, and I had heard this was the place to go to in Seattle.

On our way there, we walked by the elevated monorail tracks, which reminded me of my first trip to Seattle in 1968 when I was eight years old. We drove up in our old station wagon to visit my mother’s twin sister in Aberdeen, Washington. In Seattle we visited the World’s Fair, which included exhibit halls and the Space Needle. On this trip, I hadn’t gotten out of downtown nor even seen the Space Needle, but it was nice to see the monorail and be reminded that this was, indeed, Seattle.


On our way to Top Pot Doughnuts. It’s kind of a tradition.

At Top Pot Doughnuts, we bought our choices and ate on the balcony, talking about what our favorite parts of the conference had been. The students agreed that the professional astronomers were different than they had anticipated. Instead of stuffy, brainy eggheads (which is how movies and TV shows tend to portray scientists), the found the astronomers to be engaging, excited, highly motivated, and eager to share their work even with high school students. Rosie and Julie both said they are now thinking about careers in astrophysics. As Julie put it, being around the astronomers made her happy. She had made a number of contacts for potential undergraduate and graduate schools when she graduates from high school in two years.

We walked back to the Hyatt Regency and checked out, then walked to the light rail station and bought tickets back to SeaTac Airport. On the way back, I finally spotted the Space Needle north of the city. We worked our way through getting boarding passes and I collected all of our receipts, knowing I’d have to justify all expenses with the NITARP accounting and with the Utah STEM Action Center, who were paying for our trip. We passed through security and had some time to wait before boarding the airplane, so we found some seats in the gate area and I dozed off while the students played games and texted friends on their cell phones.


The Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Seattle, where we stayed for the AAS conference.

The flight home to Salt Lake was uneventful, and I had already worked out a shuttle van ride back to the school. We had a few other people in the van to drop off, and traffic was slow, so it was a bit over an hour’s drive back to Provo. I struck up a conversation with the driver, who was from northern Pakistan. He was working in the U.S. to earn money to try to set up schools for girls, including finding textbooks and supplies. He told us of how difficult it is for girls to get any formal education there, and how the beautiful mountain valley he was from had been destroyed by decades of war and conflict. I can’t remember the exact name of the valley, and none of the ones listed in Wikipedia seem familiar. It might have been the Kurram Valley, which borders on Afghanistan south of the Khyber Pass.

Upon return to Walden School, I had a lot of work to get classes underway and on track since I had missed the first week of the second semester. I revised our application to the Utah STEM Action Center for a higher amount, as per their request, enough to cover the other two students. I assembled all of our receipts and sent them in to NITARP for reimbursement.


Seattle-Tacoma Airport as seen from the light rail system on our way home from Seattle.

As a result of all this, I got behind on writing up our adventures in this blog. Other things got in the way. Now, over two years later, I am finally writing about it. Much has happened since, and I hope to bring this blog up to date in the next few weeks (before the middle of February 2017) as things start to heat up with our Mars project at my new school. I will want to stay current on that project, so the sooner I can catch up, the better.

About davidvblack

I teach courses in multimedia, 3D animation, Earth science, physics, biology, 8th grade science, chemistry, astronomy, engineering design, STEAM, and computer science in Utah. I've won numerous awards as an educator and am a frequent presenter at state and national educator conferences. I am part of the Teachers for Global Classrooms program through the U.S. Department of State and traveled to Indonesia in the summer of 2017 as an education ambassador. I learned of the Indonesian education system and taught classes in astronomy and chemistry at a high school near Banjarmasin in southern Borneo. I am passionate about STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics); science history; photography; graphic design; 3D animation; and video production. This Spaced-Out Classroom blog is for sharing lessons and activities my students have done in astronomy. The Elements Unearthed project ( will combine my interests to document the discovery, history, sources, uses, mining, refining, and hazards of the chemical elements.
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