Grade 6 student Paige Smith was “kind of” nervous when she approached the front of the classroom to read a question, but the answer left her ready to shoot for the stars.
With her query printed in pencil on a square, paper card, Paige looked into a webcam featuring the class’s prestigious guest and spoke softly.
“Did you ever want to give up during training?,” Paige asked Canadian astronaut Jenni Sidey-Gibbons.
Dressed in a light blue jumpsuit with a Canadian flag patch on her shoulder, Sidey-Gibbons took time out of her morning on Thursday to videoconference with multiple schools, including 75 Grade 5 and 6 students at Kay Bingham elementary in Brocklehurst.
Sidey-Gibbons said that in any career path, there are always disparaging times, which she experienced at the start of her astronaut training. While the training was difficult — such as solving math problems under water — Sidey-Gibbons said she learned to never give up and continue to do her best.
“Hopefully, I can pass on to you that you really shouldn’t cut yourself out of the running for anything or give up on something. If something doesn’t work out, it surely should not be you that puts that limit on yourself,” Sidey-Gibbons told Paige, who was one of three Kay Bingham students to ask a question.
Paige said she wanted to ask that question because sometimes she feels like giving up on difficult tasks.
“But she didn’t give up and she’s now achieving her dream,” Paige said, noting it was fun to get an answer from an astronaut.
The Kay Bingham student has aspirations to be a doctor when she grows up — and Sidey-Gibbons inspired her to keep following her dream.
“Now I feel like if I train and follow through with what I want to be, maybe one day I’ll be a doctor,” Paige said.
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) invited the students to chat with Sidey-Gibbons about space, her career path and what it takes to be astronaut.
Getting the unique opportunity to speak with an astronaut was a year in the making, teacher Lisa Pye explained.
While researching information for her unit on space in the summer of 2018, Pye found an application to have an astronaut speak at her school. She then added Kay Bingham to the CSA’s list.
“Thirteen months later, they said, ‘How about two weeks from now?’” Pye said.
Pye said she hopes her students will look back on this moment as a landmark event in their lives.
“I know Chris Hadfield got his start watching astronauts and it sounds like Jenni did, too, so it’s something that continually inspires next generation,” Pye said.
She said she wants her students to connect to the rest of the world and be curious about science and technology.
“The world is full of challenges they will be facing as adults, so I want them to be excited to take on those challenges and feel optimistic about what they can achieve as individuals,” Pye said.
Logan Wiebe, who is also in the sixth grade, said he was excited when he heard they would be speaking with a real-life astronaut, adding he finds space to be fascinating.
He said he wants to be a mechanic when he grows up and could see himself using those skills to work on the International Space Station.
The videoconference saw students from multiple Canadian schools ask questions of Sidey-Gibbons, including such queries dealing with life on other planets, difficult parts of training and whether one can tweet and vote from space.
In response, Sidey-Gibbons said that, given the scale of the universe, there must be some other forms of life out there, noted learning Russian to communicate with other astronauts is one of the hardest part of her training and confirming that, yes, tweeting and voting from space are possible.
Sidey-Gibbons was selected as one of two members of the 2017 CSA group. Having recently completed two-years of basic training she is awaiting her first visit to space.