Published on: 26 October 2023

Yesterday, the Preparatory School welcomed two special visitors – Veteran NASA Astronaut Don Thomas and Western Australian children’s author Reece Carter.

Year 5 students were lucky enough to hear from Don, who presented remotely via Teams from Washington DC to our Innovation Lab. Don spoke to the students about space travel, perseverance and working hard to follow your dreams. Don is a private pilot with over 250 hours in single-engine land aircraft and gliders, and over 800 hours flying as a mission specialist in NASA T-38 jet aircraft. A veteran of four space flights, he has logged over 1,040 hours in space.

Don shared interesting and entertaining perspectives about his determination in becoming a NASA astronaut, travelling to space, everyday life in space – what you eat, how you exercise, use the toilet, shower and sleep, some of the zero gravity science experiments they undertook in space, and how looking back on Earth from afar for the first time altered his perspective on life. Needless to say, the students were in absolute awe of his many impressive accomplishments and completely engrossed in his incredible stories of life as an astronaut.

Later in the morning, Year 4s welcomed Western Australian children’s author, Reece Carter to the Preparatory Library to launch his new book ‘The Lonely Lighthouse of Elston-Fright’. He also shared the inspiration behind his first book ‘A Girl Called Corpse: An Elston Fright Tale’, which began one creepy night lying in bed at his home in Paddington, Sydney, and noticing the open manhole in the ceiling above. Reece discussed the writing process and how he developed the various characters. Both books are set around the forgotten fishing town of Elston-Fright, inspired by the area around the wild coast between Old Dunsborough and Meelup Beach, past Castle Rock, where he spent many of his childhood holidays.

Reece grew up in Tammin, WA, and there was an unfortunate lack of witches and ghosts on his farm, so Reece had to find them in books instead. Roald Dahl, Paul Jennings and Emily Rodda were some of his first favourite authors. When he moved away to boarding school at age eleven, he would spend time tucked away reading in the library, or seeking out recommendations from the school librarians. With the encouragement of his English teacher, Reece started writing his own stories, too. The engaging presentation had students laughing, asking questions, and discussing the plot and characters. Reece’s books are part of the library staff’s selection of spooky stories for Halloween and are available for boys to borrow from the library.

We are very fortunate to welcome a rich variety of guests to speak with our students. Their expertise, talent, and inspiring stories encourage our young students to be curious and creative, and explore their interests. Thank you to Don and Reece for sharing their stories and experiences with our students for what was a very memorable day.