This page provides information to support educators and families when teaching K-3 students about the astronaut Mae Jemison. It is designed to complement the Mae Jemison topic on BrainPOP Jr.  

Mae Jemison is the first Black woman to go into space. Born in 1956, she grew up in Chicago, Illinois. As a child, Jemison was very curious and loved to ask questions about the world around her and also about faraway stars and planets. Ask students what they’re curious about.


Jemison went to Stanford University, where she was younger than most of the other students. Her determination resulted in her working hard on her studies in both chemical engineering and African studies. Review the idea of determination with children. Ask them to consider a time when something was hard but they didn’t give up


After college, Jemison thought about working at NASA, a special group in the U.S. government that studies and explores space. But she decided to become a doctor instead, traveling the world to help people. 


Still interested in space travel, Jemison followed the work of Sally Ride, the first woman to go into space, and Guy Bluford, the first Black American to go to space. They inspired her to follow her dreams. Ask students what they think inspire means. Then ask who inspires them and why.


Dr. Jemison eventually decided to apply to NASA to become an astronaut, and was chosen out of thousands of applicants! Her crew’s mission was to run experiments in space. They spent years preparing  for the flight. Jemison worked closely with an expert named Sharon McDougle, who was the first Black woman to lead a special team responsible for the astronauts’ suits. The suits had been designed for men, but McDougle redesigned Jemison’s suit to fit properly, which kept her much  safer. 


Finally, on September 12, 1992, Mae Jemison climbed aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour with six other astronauts. Jemison worked as a mission specialist, conducting several different experiments, including how bones changed in space, how tadpoles grew in space, and why floating in space caused dizziness. She was in space for over a week and returned with a lot of new information. 


Since her mission, Jemison has traveled the world to share her experiences. Today, she works to get young people of color interested in science and organizes space camps. She’s also leading people to find ways to travel beyond the solar system. 


Remind students that a role model is a person who people look up to, and who sets an example for others. Ask children how Mae Jemison could be a role model for them, and then discuss why it’s important to have leaders to show us what’s possible.