Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned British scientist, professor, and author, is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists in history. From the Big Bang to black holes, his work on the origins and structure of the universe revolutionized the field of study. But what Stephen was also well-known for was his extraordinary life living with ALS for more than 55 years.
Encouraging a love for reading amongst young people of all ages, particularly in the area of science, was something Stephen often wrote and spoke about. To celebrate what would have been his 81st birthday, one elementary school in Seattle is honoring his legacy by inspiring young readers to learn more about ALS while helping to fight the disease that took his life.
To honor Stephen’s life and help raise awareness of ALS, the Lake and Park School launched “Read for the Stars” yesterday, a STEAM-focused (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) read-a-thon fundraiser challenging their students to read as much as they can during the month of January, tracking their progress by recording numbers of minutes or pages they’ve completed. The students will then celebrate their achievement by making a donation to The ALS Association at the end of the event.
“Inspiring the next generation of scientists was something Stephen was committed to,” says Katrina Hawking, Stephen’s daughter-in-law, and special events coordinator at The ALS Association in Seattle. “In his final book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Stephen talks about the importance of science education in schools.”
“We have a role to play in making sure this generation of children have not just the opportunity, but the wish to engage fully with the study of science at an early level so that they can go on to fulfill their potential and create a better world for the whole human race.”Stephen Hawking
The read-a-thon kick-off consisted of a youth activity day for PRE-K through fifth graders. Students watched a Google video Doodle
produced for Stephen’s 80th birthday and were treated to a giant space-themed cake. “As expected, the cake was a huge hit with the students,” Katrina shared. “The kick-off generated a lot of excitement around the month-long event and the school is looking forward to the additional scheduled learning opportunities including presentations about ALS research and care.”
“We hope people will support the students of the Lake and Park School with their fundraiser,” says Katrina. “The money they raise will fund over 150 research projects looking into the causes of ALS in hopes of developing better treatments as well as supporting patient services, ALS clinics, support groups and the equipment lending program.”
“But the goal of the program goes beyond fundraising,” she says. “I hope this STEAM reading program will also help the students of the Lake and Park School develop a lasting love of science and reading. That’s what Stephen would have wanted.”
When asked what she thought Stephen would say today about the kids participating in this event, Katrina said, “I know he would be thrilled. In his book, Stephen wrote, ‘We never really know where the next great scientific discovery will come from, nor who will make it. Opening up the thrill and wonder of scientific discovery, creating innovative and accessible ways to reach out to the widest young audience possible, greatly increases the chances of finding and inspiring the new Einstein. Wherever she might be. So remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up. Unleash your imagination. Shape the future.’”
Special thanks to Katrina Hawking for allowing us to share her story with the ALS community.