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Wild and unruly kids

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#76 csrlice12

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 01:31 PM

Right MawkHawk, unlike "work", this is a hobby. There are no "rules"; no deadlines to meet, no schedule or checklist to follow.....its what we do for fun......and that makes a whole universe of difference.......

#77 MessiToM

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:24 PM

All this reminds me of a younger boy (parents no where to be seen) grabbed my E.P and started to climb up it. I turned and saw him and the 12" dob start to tip JUST in time. I never turn my back to my gear at public outreaches now....

My club was st up at a local camp ground. I assume parents figured they would let theyr kids rome down there for something to do. I know as a parent of 2 that I would never allow such behavior. These events are the minority not majority of younger folks

#78 orion61

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 04:41 PM

It is pretty cool tho when kids see you in the market or
elsewhere in town and come up to you and tell you how
much they loved looking through your telescope.
Same with their Parents..
Those make the other little issues seem so minor, and make it well worth while, and keep me doing it!

#79 Achernar

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:15 PM

That is why I never turn my back on my telescope for a second. It also helps a lot that most of the children I meet are in the company of their parents, I think the parents often get more out of coming to outreach events than the children. I realize most of them have never been face to face with an astronomical telescope before, but past a certain age, they should know better than to use telescopes as jungle gyms.

Taras

#80 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 10:51 PM

I think adults usually get more out of it. The younger the kid, the less they understand what they're seeing or are supposed to see. What's really annoying is when parents waste your time by holding their precious toddlers up to your eyepiece so they can tilt their heads and whine about they can't see anything. In general kids younger than about 6 just aren't equipped to get it.

#81 Achernar

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 07:09 PM

I agree, that age seems to be when children begin to be able to actually look through a telescope and grasp what they are looking at. Older kids on other hand, are quite capable of mastering a telescope and finding objects.

Taras

#82 edwincjones

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 07:34 AM

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#83 StarStuff1

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 08:18 AM

Here is a pic of the mount and tripod I made a few years ago. It is lightweight but sturdy. Kid friendly height. To it I attach a 4-in f/4 refractor. The scope is made from the objective of a defective 25x100 binocular. A slightly used 22mm wide field ep (bought here on CN for an excellent price) provides 18x and a 4° tfov. I have less than $125 in the project.

This is my "Kid's Scope". When doing outreach I often set this scope up just a few feet away and encourage youngsters to see what they can find (OK, not real good on the planets but for the Moon, Pleiades and other bright clusters or just even star fields it works well). Kids love doing this. It is especially satisfying when they "discover" something and show their parents what they found.

Possibly the best $125 and a few hours of construction I have spent in this hobby.

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#84 dpwoos

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 08:28 AM

That is great! I am going to think about doing something similar so that kids can give observing a try all on their own, without me (or any other adult) "guiding" them. In fact, I think that guiding kids is important, but I also think that letting them engage in stuff on their own is also (and just as) important.

#85 Skylook123

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 03:04 PM

Some interesting commentary here. Our club is large, and does a lot of outreach; some are paid events for local resorts or conventions, which support our other outreach activities. The free ones are as many as a dozen school events a month, plus Catalina State Park several times a year, same for University of Arizona astronomy students, the county Department of Natural Resources. other special events, and of course the Grand Canyon Star Party. I try to participate in as many as I can, and have been doing so for about fifteen years. As a club policy for school events, we draw the line at third grade. Joe's last post is right on the mark; even with age limits for primary participants, younger family members are also in attendance and the youngest are almost intimidated by the experience, not knowing what the expectation is and rarely getting their eye in position to see anything when held up by an adult.

I don't have a choice between "best" equipment and "good enough". I just use the 10" SCT set at a height for young folks, with a stool available if needed and the revolving star diagonal, and generally use a 19mm Panoptic for the targets. Some of the events will prompt the use of the 18"; I pick targets that let someone around 5'10" stand flat footed at the eyepiece, and have a ladder available but not often used.

In 15 years of outreach, up to half a dozen or more each month with 30 to 150 visitors each time, and GCSP nights with as many as 300 visitors a night to my 18", that's LOTS of public contact and I have never observed anything like the troubles reported here (other than an occasional toddler age child being too young to understand the expectations). However, I have had issues with adults and high school students at religion-based schools that want to debate some aspects of astronomy (I can rope-a-dope pretty well), and two years ago my first real, and only problem. At GCSP, a highly intoxicated college age person who first was a bit disruptive, then next thing I saw he was sleeping on the ground propped against a tripod leg of the 10" my granddaughter was using. A gentle foot to the hip woke him up and he wandered away. That's it. Sounds like I've been mighty lucky! Last I counted, I was at around 60,000 visitors over the years to my scopes, so maybe someone is slipping some Thorazine to my audiences.

#86 cheapersleeper

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:26 PM

Jim, I have not done close to the number of events that you have but have done a few here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that have had 100 to 200 people in attendance and have had no trouble myself and have not seen any. Just lucky or are the majority of these events fun and easy to do?

One thing that might make a difference is that all the large events have a lot of displays and programs going on in the evening leading up to observing later. That may help.

Brad

#87 edwincjones

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 07:40 PM

I have had kids with sticky fingers,
kids, and some adults, that grab the scope for support,
a few "happy" drunks,
but nothing major, or damaging
99% or more of the viewers have been respectful, grateful, polite


edj

#88 Skylook123

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 10:01 PM

I have had kids with sticky fingers,
kids, and some adults, that grab the scope for support,
a few "happy" drunks,
but nothing major, or damaging
99% or more of the viewers have been respectful, grateful, polite


edj


I haven't had the sticky finger problem, but the grabbing of the eyepiece or scope just happens. I just go into the "look with your eyes, not with your hands" mode and watch hands like a hawk. Actually, the worst problem I ever had, by percentage, was at the outdoor lab for the final session of a Basic Astronomy class two of us taught last fall. Sixteen adults, all retired, very intelligent, laughed the week before in the classroom during equipment demos about people grabbing the scope instead of moving their head to the eyepiece. So at least six of the students grabbed a truss bar to move the eyepiece to their eye. Sigh.

For the kids and the 10", the best acquisition I ever got was my mother-in-law's spare walker about three years ago. Here's a picture of my Halloween setup, except I did not use the table or laptop; that was for some web cam solar work I was doing before the sun went down. So, all I had was the scope, the walker, and the little green stool. The front edge of the walker was right under the eyepiece, with the stool in place. For every child, it was "Hold onto the walker and look at The Owl." No one touches the eyepiece, and for the adults, it helps them maintain balance as they bend down to look into the eyepiece.

No matter what you say, most people will reach for the eyepiece; it's natural. We bring food to our face, and if our head goes into the book, we've been reading it too long. But we have to move our head to the scope, not natural. So, the walker works magic; hands go on the walker before the head goes to the eyepiece. And when not in use, it folds flat. I've noticed some of my fellow outreach practitioners have added it to their basic equipment.

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#89 MikeBOKC

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 10:17 AM

"As you approach the telescope, please remember that the only thing that should touch the eyepiece is your middle eyelash."

#90 Footbag

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Posted 12 January 2013 - 09:20 PM

I have a step-stool that I take with me. Unless you are of adult height, you pretty much need to use it. I preposition the stool, and I tell all kids to keep both hands on the top bar of the step-stool.

In the future, I may add the line above about not wanting to touch and shake the view.

I do think video astronomy is a potential solution to this as well. To people who don't have the nostalgia for the eyepiece, it is a lot more interesting. I prefer to do my solar observing on the laptop screen with a sunshade.

When I'm imaging and kids ask to look through the telescope, I tell them that it's hooked up for photography tonight. I leave the DSLR on and switch over to Live View and point towards the moon or a planet. They're more impressed then they would be through the eyepiece.

#91 tomnjulie

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Posted 13 January 2013 - 12:30 AM

The issues I've had are with the parents. I feel for the kids whose parents are teaching them moon landing conspiracies.

#92 dpwoos

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Posted 13 January 2013 - 12:45 AM

I have had folks that want to push one agenda or another, and insist on having a "discussion" with me that isn't really a discussion at all. I try and cut it short by saying that I am a scientifically minded person, and so tend to stick with that way of looking at the universe. I have to admit to enjoy talking about aliens and alien life. There is a lot to learn from the Drake Equation, Fermi Paradox, and the Great Filter. Sometimes I avoid going into this stuff if there are little kids hanging around, as some of it (if properly understood) can be quite unsettling. However, later in the evening it is only the hard core who are still hanging around the scope, and so we can have some pretty far out discussions while taking turns following a shadow transit!

#93 Doc Willie

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Posted 13 January 2013 - 08:30 PM

I found having a walker for kids to grab onto helped a lot. We had at least 50 kids, and only one or two tried to touch the eyepiece.

#94 SteveE

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Posted 14 January 2013 - 02:18 PM

I use one of Rick Singmaster's "Starstep" observing chairs which, when used according to the Starmaster website guidelines is safe and convenient. It allows for adjustable height within a restricted range. It can be either a stool to stand on or a chair to sit on. It has rails like the walker.

The walker is likely less expensive but if you're up to buying the Starstep you'll find it well made, sturdy and very useful.

As for the unruly kids you only have control over a few things. As an elementary teacher with decades of experience dealing with youthful energy I'd offer this: Make rules and etiquette the first thing you discuss with your crowd; use highly visible cones, ribbons or a ground tarp to delineate the area around your scope and allow only one person at a time to cross the line and observe; keep an eye on every person at the scope as they approach and be ready to alert them about "vibrating the view" or "ruining the scope's alignment" if you see them moving their hands to the scope; keep your program moving and as compelling as possible. Remember, you're dealing with generations that are not as skilled at being away from a screen as you are :) ; Stay friendly and give them "as needed" glimpses of your serious side when you remind them of the rules; If you can't be friendly as least try for pleasantly neutral.

Best of luck. Don't stop doing it. It's worth it. Indeed, if I might arrogantly impose my views on the world, I'd go so far as to say that these kids really need something like this in their lives.

Steve

#95 Ed Holland

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 01:14 AM

I've taken gear to a few local events organised by our town. Usually I set up the 5" refractor or Mak for "show and tell" but also like to bring a 70mm f/10 refractor along specifically to let the younger members drive for themselves. An erect image diagonal and 25mm Kellner provide reasonable entertainment at little risk. Often the children are a bit surprised to be allowed full control, but I consider this to be an important part of being there at a public event - to show that anyone can use a telescope, and what to expect if you get a small but respectable starter setup.

Luckily, no unruly participants have upset the fun :)
Ed

#96 dpwoos

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 07:53 AM

I love having these positive stories to balance the negative ones. I think that, in general, negative reports come to carry more weight than warranted. Usually, folks only report the bad stuff and so that is what is heard and shared. It is easy to forget that for every negative there are oodles of positives that go unremarked. If our club is typical in this regard, and I have no reason to think that it is not, then the one story of ugly behaviour keeps getting repeated and passed around, to the point where most folks don't even know who it happened to, when it happened, and where it happened.

#97 Skylook123

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 08:23 PM

I wish you all could read the emails I get after the Grand Canyon Star Party. These are people who make an effort after their vacations to look up contact information and talk about how the experience affected them and their families. I remember one middle-school girl from the midwest with her family on a western park tour. The night they came, the weather was overcast mostly, threatened rain, but some sucker holes opened up and four or five of the astronomers did combined teaching and showing. They stayed three more nights, returned home, and I later found out she started a science club at her school.

This also includes astronomers trying outreach with us for the first time. My favorite was from a woman in Chicago who ran her own design firm, and used solo astronomy for a dozen years to relax from the business stress. She called me for information regarding visiting; she and some friends were traveling out west, she had large Ultra Compact scope, but didn't feel she was up to public use. I could tell that she'd be great with the crowd. I convinced her to join us as a volunteer. She decided to try it one night. She stayed all eight. Sent a very touching email about some of the visitors she had, and how she was going to do this kind of thing at home.

Another time, a retired Interpretive Ranger stopped in for a night of visiting and had a pair of binoculars. By the next year he had four telescopes and now does outreach two or three times a week in Utah. And for the last three years he's returned to GCSP every year and actually gave one of our night talks on some Native American astronomy he researched.

Yeah, LOTS of good to go along with the less than good. BUT, it's not for everyone and that's OK too.

#98 Scott in NC

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:01 PM

Great post, Jim! It's interactions like that that really makes it all worth it. :)

#99 dpwoos

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Posted 15 January 2013 - 11:29 PM

Wow - that's what I'm talking about. Sounds great.

I bet observing at the Grand Canyon is simply amazing. It is really, really nice here in Vermont, but I have this mental image that out west the sky is really, really big. My wife and I are going to have to do a westward astro trip sometime in the next few years!

#100 Joe Bergeron

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Posted 16 January 2013 - 01:17 AM

If I make it back there again I'm going to make an effort to show a bigger variety of objects and not just park on a planet all night until I'm tired of talking about it, even if my scope does have the best planetary views.






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