Guided by the Stars

Brittany Foreman switched her major from aerospace engineering to education in order to share her interests with elementary school students.

by Adam Hauptman (December 2010)

BrittanyForeman_LionShrine.jpgThree years ago Brittany Foreman came to Penn State with a dream of working for NASA someday. Inspired by a love for astronomy, she enrolled in aerospace engineering. After assisting a science camp counselor with pointing out stars to other campers in a blow-up planetarium, Foreman became smitten with the stars. Later, she recreated that experience for elementary school students as part of her high school senior project, perhaps foreshadowing her future career to come.

Today, she can point out numerous constellations and visible planets in the night sky, but her love for astronomy has led her away from engineering and into the field of education.

"After a few semesters, I decided I would rather ride in a space shuttle than design one," says Foreman.

Surprisingly, she found herself in the College of Education, where she says she truly enjoys the higher level of personal interaction that she receives from teaching. She says that she really enjoys "learning through teaching and being able to tell students why education is so important."

Foreman has had to explore somewhat to find her niche. She initially started in earth and space science education, which prepares one to teach at the middle and high school levels, but then she moved toward elementary education, which would allow her more flexibility to integrate astronomy into her lesson plans.

"I felt an attachment to primary school students after working at Penn State’s ice rink," she says, "where I helped teach young children how to ice skate."

Now a senior at University Park, Foreman would love to be an inspiration to primary school children through student counseling. In addition, she has become interested in sign language and its use in the classroom as a valuable, underappreciated instructional tool. Upon graduation, she is looking forward to working at a public school before pursuing a master's degree in either guidance counseling to become an elementary school counselor or possibly communications, science, and disorders to gain additional insight into deaf culture so that she can work to better educate the hard of hearing.

Last August, Foreman visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where she took a crack at landing a shuttle in the center’s simulator. She succeeded on her first attempt. Though her life goals may have changed over time, her passion for space and astronomy continues to play a role in her busy life, and it's proof that people’s futures can be as bright and mysterious as the stars themselves.