Most teachers typically frown upon students having their head in the clouds.
Quakertown science teacher Lisa Reichley, who once dreamed of becoming an astronaut, is encouraging kids to gaze far above those clouds — up to the stars, galaxies and beyond.
The middle school educator recently wrote her second book, “The Fascinating Space Book for Kids: 500 Far-Out Facts.”
The 203-page book, targeted at kids between 8 to 12 years old reading at a sixth- or seventh-grade level, highlights “fun, interesting and somewhat unbelievable facts” of our solar system and all of outer space, said Reichley, who’s been teaching for 13 years.
Fun facts include how astronauts took spiders into space to see if they could spin webs — they could.
Or how moths that were taken to space couldn’t fly in their new environment if they’d been born on Earth, but moths born in space were able to adapt and fly up there just fine.
It’s her second published book for students interested in space. The first, “Our Solar System,” was released last year by Rockbridge Press. She describes it as fitting for a middle-school astronomy class.
“That’s more of a reference book for the different bodies that are found in the solar system,” said Reichley, a mother of three who has so far taught two of her three kids in school. Her husband, Zeke, teaches high school biology in Pottstown.
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She says “The Fascinating Space Book for Kids” is a much lighter read for students, guiding them on an adventure through the cosmos as they explore obscure and otherworldly facts.
“Mercury has the greatest temperature differential of any planet in the solar system,” Reichley shared as another fun fact. “On Mercury, the difference between day and night is like an 1,100-degree Fahrenheit difference.”
Reichley, who’s entering her third year of teaching at Quakertown Christian School, didn’t initially set out to become an author.
Over the past eight-and-a-half years, she’s published her science activities, experiments and lesson plans via an online marketplace called Teachers Pay Teachers.
The site allows educators to buy and sell lesson plans to and from each other.
Reichley’s work got attention, and not only from other teachers.
A third-party company called Callisto Media, which works with publishers Rockridge Press, came across her materials and asked if she’d be interested in writing a book under a work-for-hire contract.
“They actually provide the outline of what they want for the book,” Reichley said.
The educator admits that at first, she questioned whether she’d be up for the new challenge.
Her self doubt was erased after asking herself one question.
“I know a lot, I love teaching, so why not?” Reichley said. “You only have one life, you only get one shot to do things, so I’d rather do something than not do it.”
After submitting a writing sample, she received the go-ahead to write her very first book, which was published Oct. 20 of last year.
“For me, it is a very large creative outlet,” she said. “I love the research and the writing, because I love outer space, and it’s just another method of teaching.”
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It helps that after years of working in education, Reichley’s become an expert on thinking like a student and knowing the kind of information that piques their interest.
“Their questions are fairly predictable after you teach for over a decade,” Reichley explained.
“You know, ‘why does this happen?’ Or ‘what would this moon be like?’ And ‘what would happen if gravity ceased to exist?’” she said.
Rather than reading like a narrative, Reichley’s new book offers kids snapshots of facts they’d find exciting — like learning that a 1980s sci-fi cyborg assassin shares a name with a feature of Earth’s only natural satellite.
“You see varying amounts of the left side of the moon every night,” Reichley said. “The line that divides the shadow side of the moon from the left side of the moon is called the terminator, and so my kids always thought that was so funny.”
The importance of science education in general goes beyond the content knowledge students absorb, Reichley said.
“They can solve problems on their own, they can research, they can find out more, they can test their ideas, and they can use that method to make their lives better or to help solve society’s problems,” she said.
Her hope as a science teacher, she says, is to open children’s eyes to all that’s out there.
Reichley’s first-ever class of eighth-grade students are now in their early 20s, and what some of them learned from her in middle school influenced them to go on and pursue science-related fields, including nursing.
Realizing the imprint she’s left on their lives has given meaning to her work, she shared.
“The more a kid learns and the more they realize what they’re capable of, the more drive they’re going to have to learn more,” Reichley said. “That’s what teaching and learning is all about.”