The Curiosity Plant and Teens

[An article that disappeared from the web…]

Scientist Urges Students To Cultivate Curiosity

Astronomer uses cosmos to motivate Latino teens at Mt. Diablo High School

By Janice De Jesus

CONCORD, California, May 8th, 2006 – Francisco “Pancho” Ramos Stierle has found that knowledge about the cosmos cannot only enlighten people about the world and its galactic neighbors but also inspire people to send out a message of peace to others.

Ramos Stierle, a candidate for the Ph.D. astrophysics program at UC Berkeley, not only studies and teaches astronomy, he uses it as a motivational tool, especially for young people.

On a recent visit to Mt. Diablo High School in Concord, using a slide show and speaking animatedly, he showed Latino students, a majority of whom spoke little English, how the Cosmos could help them become better citizens of the world.

With the backdrop of scenes of planet Earth, the Solar System and stars, Ramos Stierle explained to students in Spanish how and what they could do to live the good life.

He encouraged students to think of themselves as a “little curiosity plant,” one that is young, needs nurturing and asks a bunch of questions.

“Always ask, ‘How could I improve my conditions of living?'” he asked students as he held up a small indoor plant. “For a little plant to grow into a sequoia tree, you need to build strong roots.”

He used the plant analogy to allow students to start planting the seeds of critical thinking early on in life.

And he also encouraged them to figure out their “cosmic address.”

“There are billions of stars in the galaxy. When you put them into context, we are only a super tiny part of this universe and we should be humble,” he said. “But also ask yourselves, ‘What is the significance of your being here?’ Know that we are special and we’re doing great things.”

Ramos Stierle emphasized the point that, “The Earth is but one country and the humankind its citizens.”

Whatever a person’s background — American, Mexican, African, Muslim, agnostic, Christian — everyone who lives on this Planet is a citizen of the world, he said.

“It doesn’t matter where you came from, what matters is being a responsible earthling,” he said.

His final point targeted students specifically.

“Si, si puede, Yes, you can!” he said. “What do you want to be? A biologist, musician, soccer player, astronomer, nonviolent activist, server — start thinking about it. Find your passion, then go for it.”

Students said that Ramos Stierle engaged them with his visual presentation, his youth, his enthusiasm and his speaking to them in their native tongue.

“When he was talking about the sun that’s very big and the many stars and the Earth being very small, I feel good because I not only know all about the galaxy, I know we are all part of this universe,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, 18.

Luz Rivera, 16, said she was glad to get astronomy and life lessons all in one.

“The presentation helped us understand about the Earth and about people,” she said.

“I learned since we all live on Earth, we’re all equal,” said Christian Ortiz, 16.

Though anyone can benefit from his talk, those who may benefit the most is the younger generation, particularly those from low-income households, said Jorge Colaizzo, an English language resource teacher at Mt. Diablo High School, who invited Ramos Stierle.

“Young people need a little motivation, an extra push to not get lost with all the distractions,” Ramos Stierle said after his talk. “These kids are worried about making lots of money. But you just have to figure out what makes you happy and what you’re passionate about and go for it. It’s never too early to start thinking about it.”

Janice De Jesus can be reached at 925-682-6440, ext. 14, or


About pancho

To live in radical joyous shared servanthood to unify the Earth family.
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