By Justin Liggin
Drawing on her fascination for space, 18-year-old rising star Katie Prator seeks to educate students and inspire generations to learn about the cosmos through her custom educational lesson plans.
“The first time I looked through a telescope, I remember being in awe at the vastness of the universe and wanting to know more about all the possibilities it has to offer,” says Prator.
Growing up with her father previously working at Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory and serving as a system ambassador for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Prator was encouraged to reach for the stars and to help others find a passion for the universe around us from a young age.
“I would go to different events with him at the observatory and always knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps to try and help other kids find a passion for the universe,” says Prator.
Prator’s project website, exploretheskygold.com, contains lesson plans geared toward girls in grades K-5 with customized activities for individual, group and outdoor use. To create these lesson plans, Prator did extensive research and worked with experts at the Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory to find the best topics for each group.
“I’ve heard good reviews from others about my site and people are sharing with their friends and family,” says Prator.
A Girl Scout since she was a Daisy, in kindergarten, Prator’s hard work was all part of her earning a Gold Award – the highest honor as a Girl Scout. To earn this special award, Girl Scouts must identify and address a problem in their community and create a sustainable solution.
“I have been a part of Girl Scouts my whole life and have had so many opportunities to explore the world around me. Whether it was through art, music or STEM, Girl Scouts has given me so many great memories I will cherish for my whole life,” says Prator.
Though Prator now resides in Hartford, Wisconsin, she originally began working on her project in Ahwatukee, Arizona, where it has since blasted off and reached viewers across the country.
“With my project being hosted online, it has allowed my work to be easily accessible by anyone. Overall, I hope all the resources I gathered will help people gain an interest in the world outside our own,” says Prator
The 18-year-old’s project now has its sights set to expand to students and classrooms at her local YMCA as youth directors have begun making her lesson plans a part of their curriculum. Prator currently works as a full-time lifeguard at Tri County YMCA after recently graduating from IForward: Wisconsin’s Online Charter School.
As she looks ahead to college and her future career, Prator’s Gold Award project sparked new interest for her endeavors.
“Right now, I am still exploring all the options that I have. I want to continue investigating and searching for what else is out there. This project helped me realize just how big my passion for STEM is,” says Prator.
Even with life-events challenging her ability to work on the project, Prator’s drive and dedication to educating others were the rocket fuel for her successful project.
“Having graduated and working full-time as I prepare for college and other moves, it was challenging to stay on top of a project requiring so much attention. However, remembering that my project can help other kids find their passion or even a new hobby is what kept me going,” says Prator.
Prator’s project not only earned her a prestigious Gold Award, but it also allowed her to bring her childhood passion to students of all ages and make a lasting impact for years to come.
“There are so many wonders of the world left to explore and I can’t wait to learn about them and see the future generations build on those ideas and dare to dream the once believed impossible,” says Prator. “I hope this project helps inspire others to feel the same way.”