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saying no to outreach

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#1 gillmj24

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 04:49 PM

One of the parents at my wife's elementary school asked me to do an outreach program. She is a music teacher and I help her film their winter concerts and spring plays.

This private school is only 50 kids k through 5 and a more pompously parented unruly spoiled rotten group of kids who can do no wrong I have never met. I have to guard my $600 photo tripod holding my wife's $400 camcorder so that disrespectful kids running around playing tag in their own school dont destroy our stuff while their parents just chat amongst themselves. (Mind you we are taping it for the school and kids' benefit, she spends hours turning the footage into a dvd for them)

The tripod and camcorder are a hundred times more easily replaced than my scopes. The tripod wont break but they could knock the camcorder over and that could break. So I had to say no. I feel bad but I don't trust these kids, or their parents to make sure the kids behave respectfully. What would you do? I directed the parent to three local clubs. Presumably they have more experience with outreach, more experience with kids, and equipment that isn't so precious.

#2 edwincjones

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 04:54 PM

we all have the option of just saying no
50 kids need more than one scope/operator under the best of conditions
my opinion does not count, but your wife's does

edj

#3 Agatha

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:03 PM

I do not think that you should feel guilty at all. It is not up to you to babysit the unruly and sometimes even destructive kids...especially when the parents are right there nearby. Outreach is one thing, very admirable. But, having to do the substitute parenting should not be part of it.

Best, Linda B.

#4 gillmj24

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 05:32 PM

It wouldn't be all 50 kids most likely. But I would be more open to it if they were taught by parents or other teachers the slightest modicum of respect for others. He asked me to do something during the day also but a) it is in the opposite direction of my workplace and b) I think the kids parents would sue if their kid looked at the sun and hurt his eyes despite pleas to the contrary. So solar observing is out of the question (lunt solar scope notwithstanding)

Where I feel bad is the guy who asked, his daughter is not the misbehaving one.

#5 fuzzystuff4ever

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:08 PM

You should not subject yourself or your equipment to this kind of abuse, and you should feel no guilt whatsoever. Ask these worthless so-called "parents" if it's OK for you to run around their houses smashing THEIR valuables.

#6 mich_al

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 06:26 PM

Where I feel bad is the guy who asked, his daughter is not the misbehaving one.


How about offering a private session?

#7 Doug Reilly

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Posted 30 December 2012 - 07:33 PM

I think doing outreach with really expensive equiptment is a bad idea, at least, if some damage would bother you. I did a sidewalk program with my Vixen FL102s which is a dear scope, but I didn't worry too much about it. That's me. If I felt otherwise, I'd get a $150 used Orion XT-6.

I think you also have to judge how much of a(n unruly) kid person you are. You may not be, and that's fine.

As a lover of astronomy I want the right people doing outreach, and those are the ones that will really enjoy it. Life's too short for stress in the thing that is supposed to be your hobby, pasttime, passion even.

The bottom line is age old, know thyself, and be true to that knowledge. If you think you'd enjoy a smaller session with a few kids, then perhaps ask the father you know to gather a few others and do it outside the auspices of the school. Again, only if you think you would enjoy that.

otherwise, you would do well to hook them up with a local club, that probably has several die-hard outreach folks who would cherish the chance to expose their AP refractors to all 50 cherubs! :)

cheers
doug

#8 fuzzystuff4ever

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 08:03 AM

This situation sounds like it's way beyond the normal "kids running around 'cause their parents dragged them to an educational experience" routine. The described level of child malevolence combined with the enabling "parents" disregard of any semblance of responsibility precludes any possibility of a successful learning experience. Oh, and the videotaping of events should end as well; let them pay for a professional to do it and see what happens when they destroy THEIR equipment.

#9 dpwoos

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 09:05 AM

What has worked for me is laying out clear ground rules at the start. Kids love to run around in the dark, and I have no problem with that. In fact, I wouldn't mind running around with them! However, I make it very, very clear that there can be no running around near the scope(s). I explain that bumping/moving the scopes is not okay, as hitting someone's eye when they are looking through the eyepiece is a bad thing. They get it.

There are folks in our club who seem to get agitated by kids doing what kids like to do, and really it is better that these folks simply don't do public stuff. I find that a small amount of reasonable instruction has always worked for me, but it is also true that I am fairly easy going about my stuff and am comfortable with putting it in harm's way for the greater good, and my good.

#10 ColoHank

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 01:30 PM

I've noted over the years that teachers of the younger kids often like to give observing sessions a party atmosphere, providing hot chocolate, cookies, and other treats. We always start out with a safety and etiquette talk to set a proper tone, and I always extend the lens shade to minimize the risk of sticky fingers brushy against my scope's corrector.

#11 tecmage

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 02:28 PM

I've done a couple of science outreach events at my children's school. In both cases, we talked about safety and behavior before going out onto the field. In addition, the teachers were very good about helping out, because they like others coming in to help deepen the material they're teaching.

If you don't feel the teachers and parents aren't supportive, I'd pass on outreach as well.

#12 gillmj24

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 02:50 PM

I've already passed the buck to the local clubs. Thanks all for your insights.

#13 Skylook123

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 03:35 PM

Good answer.

#14 dpwoos

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 05:19 PM

I've already passed the buck to the local clubs. Thanks all for your insights.


Maybe you can join in if/when the club organizes it. Working with kids (I also assist in a local school's math class) is the best thing that I do for myself, and I find it hard not to be an exuberant advocate for this kind of outreach.

#15 Skylook123

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Posted 31 December 2012 - 07:34 PM

Two of us teach three 90 minute sessions of introductory astronomy for senior citizens. Part of the overview is a look at how, over history, mankind seems to be called to look to the night sky, and what has been the result for many cultures. Since the next session is a lab (i.e. star party), at the end I have a slide that asks, "What will you find on your exploration?" One of the twenty seniors asked, "What do you find?" I said, "I've seen most of what I feel a need to see, but with new observers I see things again through new eyes." Not only is it enjoyable to open the viewers mind to what is there, it really is like seeing it new all over again. Saturn, M13, M57, Jupiter, Venus in a waxing or waning crescent, a supernova, Albireo or Mizar, or a comet all get such an elation from a first time observer that it really can be like seeing it again for the first time. But it truly takes an interest to do it, and it should not ever be some sort of "must do". Society needs poets and engineers, soldiers and teachers, doctors and philosophers. We all have our gifts. Mine is to leave the cattle prod at home for the unruly kids. Keeps me out of court.

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#16 StarStuff1

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Posted 02 January 2013 - 11:23 PM

Hmmm Thoughtful comments, indeed.

But I will still do outreach. Just too much fun.

#17 JayinUT

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 12:49 AM

I don't do a lot of outreach, except at the local library. I find I prefer a dark sky but will teach others at a dark site how to observe. Nevertheless, when I do outreach it is with my XT10 and not my premium scope.

#18 FirstSight

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 05:10 AM

I have to guard my $600 photo tripod holding my wife's $400 camcorder so that disrespectful kids running around playing tag in their own school dont destroy our stuff while their parents just chat amongst themselves.


Whenever I do outreach with one of my scopes, whether for a group of schoolkids, a group of adults, or a mixed group, I'm never more than immediate arm's reach from my scope and gear, and am always watchful like a hawk of who's around me and who might be approaching. My demeanor is welcomingly friendly, yet clearly, firmly in command of the immediate space around my scope and gear, such that kids realize not to approach close enough to touch anything without politely engaging me. If someone's kid was acting out of control worrisomely near my vicinity, I wouldn't hesitate to firmly address the kid directly that they can't (run, horseplay, whatever it is) anywhere near me or my equipment. So far, I've been fortunate not to run into any situation with kids that I couldn't immediately cut off at the pass before any sort of risky or unpleasant incident could develop.

THAT SAID, I'm not hereby second-guessing the OP's decision that the particular schoolgroup at hand simply had too many unruly, undisciplined kids to comfortably deal with; I'd back off myself from agreeing to any outreach situation where I wasn't confident I could stay comfortably on top of the group I was supposedly doing it for. In the OPs case, I agree it's wise to turn the gig down, regardless of whether any of the rest of us might judge the situation the same way for ourselves if we were there.

The story another poster told about an outreach event at a park where some kid picked up pebbles and threw them at a fellow club-member's scope is frankly a bit unnerving, because it shows that it's impossible to guard against all risk that a kid might do something impulsively destructive before you can stop them. The closest I came to a difficult situation with someone I couldn't confidently control wasn't a school outreach, but rather one night down at the beach when I'd taken my former XT8 scope out on one of the wooden boardwalks that ran from the street through a low maritime forest out to the dunes and beach strand. I was there for my own observing, but I was gladly sharing views with any interested passers-by. At the very end of the session as I was packing up my gear to take it back to the car, a large middle-aged gentleman came along who was staying in one of the nearby cottages, and who had clearly had too many pina coladas. He was a friendly drunk, and insisted on being helpful carrying my gear back to my car. I wasn't concerned he had any possible intent to make off with any of my gear, but I was concerned that his motor skills weren't exactly 100%. Despite his bona fide friendliness I could tell from his determination to be helpful that he had potential to become belligerent if he took my refusal of his help as an insult. And so, I reluctantly let him carry the base while I carried the OTA. He got about fifty feet with the base, lost his balance, and fell over with it into the soft sand beside the boardwalk. Fortunately, no real harm was done to the base except that I had to spend an hour the next morning cleaning all the sand out of it and the az bearings. Other than that night, I've never had any problems (so far) at any sort of formal or informal outreach situation, but you never know.

#19 Jeff Porter

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 09:05 AM

I enjoy the outreach aspect of observing, especially when it is near full moon and I am not headed out to a dark sky site.

Like most I have a number of scopes. If I am doing outreach at one of the National Parks or a star party that is likely to be more educational and discussion oriented, then I take my better equipment and eyepieces. If i know that there will be a lot of elementary age kids where education and discussion is minimal, I will take a XT6 and a 25mm plossl for the kids to use.

The height of the XT6 is just right for most and the size is very manageable. What I like to do is to give the kids an easy target like the moon or a planet, and then challenge them to find the target in the eyepiece. They love this. The satisfaction of finding an object on their own is often greater than just looking at it through the scope. I do let the kids and parents know that if they want to explore and touch a telescope, that mine is the one that they need to come back to, and that they should not experiment with the other scopes on the field. I have always had a very positive response from the kids and their parents in this situation.

Jeff P

#20 Mr. Bill

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 11:23 AM

I've noted over the years that teachers of the younger kids often like to give observing sessions a party atmosphere, providing hot chocolate, cookies, and other treats. We always start out with a safety and etiquette talk to set a proper tone, and I always extend the lens shade to minimize the risk of sticky fingers brushy against my scope's corrector.


Hummm....a bunch of kids jacked up on sugar. That might explain unruley behavior.

:grin:

#21 Joe F Gafford

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 01:26 PM

My club did a shopping mall only once at the mall manager's request. This was a daytime display with club info, general astronomy and various type of scopes. The kids wanted to ride the Dobbie. A mall is a drop off place to keep the kids out of their parent's hair. These kids were unruly to say the least. This was in the 1980's, We hadn't done a mall since.
My club does external outreach to schools, national parks, and corporate. We do give a lecture beforehand to the teachers and kids. They all know to what to expect.
The internal outreach open house at the observatory is a different matter. Inside the observatory, we can have good crowd control. Outside on the lawn it is a city park which we have little crowd control. Kids are running around, tripping over accessory boxes that are not close to the scope mounts.
The more troublesome were the adults! The college students from frats nearby sometimes bring their beer over. Imagine a looped frat boy holding a glass of beer trying to look into the eyepiece on an open frame Newtonian with the mirror visible.
The park is for dog walking as well. One night a fellow was walking his two large German shepherds, lets say the dogs were walking him. One of the dogs looped a scope tripod and knocked it over with an expensive refractor on it. The owner of the scope went down as well as the scope fell on top of him. He had hip surgery and there was a slight sprain elsewhere and the scope had light damage and the mount, moderate. The fellow with the dogs was confronted and the fellow was very defensive about it being a public park an "I can walk anywhere". We had to let him go. We were over 60 vs. a 30 something with two large, loyal dogs.

Joe

#22 Mr. Bill

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Posted 10 January 2013 - 01:43 PM

I think a general comment would be a definite decline in public behavior the last 20-30 years.

Stopped going to sports events and music festivals years ago after witnessing some pretty ugly scenes.

:p

#23 csrlice12

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 10:39 AM

yup. Pretty much gotten to the point that I've given up on public venues (except plays, I still go to plays). Probably why I like astronomy....nothing like being alone with the universe...it brings me peace.

#24 dpwoos

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 11:29 AM

I think a general comment would be a definite decline in public behavior the last 20-30 years.

Stopped going to sports events and music festivals years ago after witnessing some pretty ugly scenes.

:p


I have to disagree 100%, and am uncomfortable with this kind of negative generalization. I think that, for some reason, some folks in every generation engage in criticizing young folks en mass, and I don't buy into that at all. My grandparents did it, and my parents did it, but that doesn't resonate with me at all. The behavior that I see is generally better than when I was a kid, and so I find it easy to be upbeat. I look forward to doing as much public observing and outreach as I can find time for. I am sorry that not everybody shares in this attitude, as it enriches my enjoyment of astronomy immensely. Maybe I am just a happy idiot?!

#25 tedbnh

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 11:51 AM

Maybe I am just a happy idiot?!


If so, then there are at least two of us! :-) I enjoy public outreach every chance I get. Kids need to be told the rules, then they generally follow them. If not, I remind them. For sidewalk astronomy there is never a problem. When we set up at at night at a school near their normal daytime playground, it's understandable that they are likely to run around more, that's what they do there every day. We just have to remind them not to run around near the scopes. It works out fine.






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