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Educator shares passion for space and science

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Peggy Bohlin, center with turkey hat, joins in the excitement of Camp Invention students during Orbot, remote-controlled robot, races on "Crazy Hat Day." (Alison Penn Photo)

Margaret “Peggy” Bohlin is a retired teacher who continues to be an educational resource as a teacher liaison for the Space Foundation, president of the local astronomy club and as director of Camp Invention.

Since 2015, she has advocated for space-focused learning as a teacher liaison and continues seeking out stars with the astronomy clubs.

To maintain this distinction, Bohlin said she must prove her involvement in the “core-four,” which are community outreach, training people, connecting with children and with the space foundation. She even has an astronaut flight suit and a collection of NASA mission patches that she uses for teaching purposes.

Bohlin was born Oct. 3, 1964, as one of eight children, who now all live between California and Connecticut. She grew up in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Just after graduation from St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, she came out to Roswell in 1987, because her grandparents lived here and she wanted to get to know them better. She met her husband Rick Bohlin her first week in Roswell and they celebrated their 30th anniversary on June 17. The couple also has two sons.

 

Space nerd

“I have taken the ‘road less traveled by and that has made all the difference. …'” Bohlin said, quoting poet Robert Frost. “I keep thinking if I had gone back, but I’ve had so many opportunities because I’ve stayed in Roswell. …

“All of these space opportunities that I’ve had, I think a lot of it has stemmed from being here … and I’m the only teacher liaison in the entire state of New Mexico … I’m just very fortunate because I’ve had these things happen.”

Since she was only three at the time, Bohlin, 54, said she doesn’t remember the Apollo 11 landing, but she does remember the space race and identifies as a “space nerd.” Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary of the lunar landing will be July 20.

Bohlin listed “space, Snoopy and chocolate” as some of her favorite things. She said one of the Apollo Missions had a “Snoopy in space” theme and a resurgence of Peanuts and Snoopy curriculum will be seen this year.

Her first job was at Edgewood Elementary School and she has taught Roswell Independent School District middle and elementary schools for 28 years. She has her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, master’s in elementary education as well as a gifted endorsement and teaching minor in Spanish.

Early in her teaching career, Bohlin said teaching science was not her favorite, but she grew to enjoy it after teaching a camp at New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. However, she said she has always been interested in space, looking at the stars and space exploration.

In light of the developments at Roswell Internation Air Center, SystemsGo New Mexico, drones and STEM careers, Bohlin wants Roswell to know that she is a resource as a teacher liaison with the Space Foundation and is “willing to come into the schools to teach about space.” She said she’s willing to volunteer anywhere and tutors in her spare time.

“This is my passion,” Bohlin said. “This is what I want to do. I want to get into the schools — that’s why I started the little junior Roswell Astronomy club. …”

For Roswell’s connection to space, Bohlin shared her excitement about Robert H. Goddard’s, the father of modern rocketry, workshop, other astronaut information and the planetarium at the Roswell Museum and Art Center. She said the city’s “alien connection is always fun” and believes in life in space due to the “vastness of the universe.”

Astronomy Club

Bohlin is the president of Roswell Astronomy Club and Roswell Junior Astronomy Club, which she said has roughly 20 members in each club. The junior club is open to ages 5 to 14 and 14 and up are considered adult members.

The adult club meets for “moon gazes and star parties,” depending on the phases of the moon, on the second Thursday of the month at Roswell Adult & Recreation Center, 807 N. Missouri Ave. at 7 p.m. They also participate annually in the Dragonfly Festival and for other RMAC events, Bohlin said.

She said the clubs are always looking for new members and the junior club aligns with the school year. The junior club always has hands-on activities and Bohlin said they will be concentrating on rockets this fall and spring. The junior club meets monthly at RMAC the last Sunday (or second last Sunday) of the month at 3 p.m.

“When you see it for real — like viewing planet Earth from space, you see how precious we are,” Bohlin stated that she enjoys witnessing students understanding space through telescope viewings and other hands-on activities.

As part of the annual UFO Festival, Bohlin said Astronomy Club members will be offering a hands-on Alka-Seltzer rockets activity for about three hours on the lawn of Chaves County Magistrate Court at 400 N. Virginia Ave. on Saturday.

For more information about the club’s upcoming activities or her resources as a Space Foundation teacher liaison, Bohlin can be reached at 575-420-9955 or pbohlin2016@gmail.com.

Exploration 

As an avid traveler, Bohlin attends space and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) conferences, events and training. At these education explorations, Bohlin has met Bill Nye The Science Guy, heads of space agencies, and has seen new technology and inventions. This summer she will be going to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and is considering an opportunity to teach children and teachers in Ethiopia about space.

“There’s so many spin-offs because of what they’ve done in space,” Bohlin said. “They’re finding cures for diseases … Technology has just improved greatly because they needed it for space. Disposable diapers were created because of astronauts, not because of babies. They needed something for astronauts, therefore disposable diapers, thank you, Jesus, that the astronauts went into space.”

This year marks her 11th year directing a week-long STEM camp called Camp Invention, which had 160 kids and 71 of those students attended on partial scholarships from $8,000 donations. This year’s camp was dedicated to Judge Alvin Jones — who passed away in a bicycle accident in May, and was a “generous donor,” Bohlin said.

Two former fellow educators, Margaret Rodriguez and Mignon Simitz noted Bohlin’s work with gifted children and her “amazing knowledge” on science and space. Simitz added that Bohlin is altruistic and passionate about what she believes in.

“She’s very versatile, very much full of energy,” Rodriguez said. “She’ll tackle anything, loves kids, and loves to impart her knowledge — a very good organizer. You’d have to be to set up that science camp.

“I can’t say enough about her character and her enthusiasm, hard work, her desire to instill a love of learning — especially about science in young people.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.