Overheard: A high school quest for a fallen meteorite

Adler Planetarium Teen Program Manager Chris Bresky poses with his student team as they explore Lake Michigan for a fallen meteorite. Photo by Johnny Ford & The Shedd Aquarium

“A fireball from outer space crashed into one of Earth’s biggest lakes. Scientists didn’t know how to find it. So they called in just the right people for the job—an actor and a bunch of teenagers.” 

That’s how Overheard at National Geographic host Peter Gwin opens season 2, episode 6, a journey into taking a chance even when the odds may not always work in your favor. 

The simple question of “what if” sparked the unique story that began at the depths of Lake Michigan. A rare sighting of a meteorite landing in the backyard of Chicago sparked the attention of scientists, but the idea didn’t seem practical enough to dive into further. That is until Chris Bresky at Adler Planetarium came across the opportunity and saw it fit to bring in his students from his teen programs. 

“The students were a perfect fit, being the project engineers to dream up the ideas to test and retest and to go on this hunt,” Bresky shared. And with his team in gear, the meteorite mission began with crafting a name, machine testing, mapping, reviewing sediment and more. Through support from the local community and their drive to do the impossible, the group set sail time and time again taking away new lessons each time about the mystery location of the meteorite. 

“It’s inspiring to see young people learning about science,” Gwin said. “The students in the Aquarius Project never gave up on the project — they kept showing up, kept problem-solving, kept refining their strategy and design. That’s how real science gets done. Heck, that’s how just about everything gets done.”

Ready to hear how an actor and a bunch of teenagers handled this excursion? Tune into the episode to get all the details. 

Educators: do you want to incorporate Overheard into your classroom?

Go for it — Peter Gwin certainly thinks it could work. “We try to build a sense of fun into every episode, which I think kids appreciate, especially in complex subjects like science that can sometimes feel a bit dry. … Surprise is often the spark that ignites curiosity, and curiosity stokes the flame for learning new things.” 

Overheard at National Geographic eavesdrops on the wild conversations we have here. Follow along with the stories with us wherever you enjoy your podcasts. 

Feature image by Chris Bresky and Adler Planetarium

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