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saying no to outreach

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#26 Mr. Bill

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Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:06 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.


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?!

I wasn't specifically talking about kids...IMO a decline in civility of the general population. Certainly seemed like a lot of bad behavior cited above (and the "Unruley Kids" thread) and not just kids.

Hey, I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer; if outreach is your thing, by all means enjoy. I've done my share in the past.

#27 edwincjones


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Posted 13 January 2013 - 07:25 AM

.............. Probably why I like astronomy....nothing like being alone with the universe...it brings me peace.

:waytogo: :waytogo:


#28 edwincjones


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Posted 13 January 2013 - 07:33 AM

outreach is like planting a seed
you hope it grows
-maybe a new Einstein
-maybe enjoyment for some
-one's own pleasure
one never knows the results


#29 ed_turco


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Posted 13 January 2013 - 11:26 AM

Let me tell you about raising my kid. When he was 8, he finally asked what I was doing grinding and polishing. I asked him where all my other telescopes came from. He answered quickly, "The Stork?". Sly sense oh humor, that kid. In any case he said that he'd go crazy doing all that work, and I responded that it took a lot of work for anyone's telescope, whether he made it or not.

So when I took him to my astronomy club, he was so careful around telescopes, it was generously remarked upon. What they didn't know is that I told him, just in case he didn't remember, he'd have to deal with his Old Man when he got home if anything went wrong because of him.

He came a few more times and decided he didn't like astronomy. (Sigh.)

But I still love him just the same! And we go out together on Father's Day to celebrate that we now both are fathers :)


#30 Tim Gilliland

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 08:35 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.

Make it three, I have a public Sidewalk event monthly at the local Community Center. I set up a 17.5 Discovery PDHQ, and all of my EP's are TV. Yes at times the kids get a bit excited. By reminding them to always keep two hands on the ladder they don't seem to bother the scope. yes I do have to remind some kid's more often than other's. In my advertisment it states that small children must be accompanied by an adult. I have been doing this for going on two years and have had zero problems. It is a VERY rewarding experiance for me.

#31 oldtimer


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Posted 18 January 2013 - 12:21 PM

First and formost your time is just that 'Your Time'. You can choose to do outreach or not. The two clubs I currently belong to do many outreach events. For personal, sociol and religious reasons I do not do 'strictly' scouting or church events. I choose only to do outreach events in sccular settings like public schools and libraries where my comments do not need to be guarded.

Secondly I will not do events where the audience (especially kids) have not been pew-briefed on proper observing etiquette or where I think the crowd will be too large for the number of club volunteers.

But I'm old and cranky.

#32 csrlice12



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Posted 18 January 2013 - 03:10 PM

Secular, "pew" briefed audience????

Sorry, just couldn't help point that freudian slip out.... :foreheadslap:

#33 Jon Isaacs

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 08:03 PM

Maybe I am just a happy idiot?!


I can say with confidence that our three sons, the youngest is 36, gave my wife and I far fewer heartaches and headaches than I gave my parents... :ubetcha:

As I write this, I am saying no to an outreach with a bunch of kids at a school.. It's not because I don't want to go, I was so looking forward to it... It's just this darn flu, it's got me and I can't even go out in the backyard. :(


#34 BarbMoore


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Posted 18 January 2013 - 11:32 PM

Our group does monthly outreach at a local state park. Just because some kids can get unruly doesn't mean I don't enjoy sharing my telescopes with others. I just have no problem speaking up if I see any possible dangers afoot.

#35 GeneT


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Posted 22 January 2013 - 07:19 PM

One thing that needs to be done is laying out some ground rules when doing outreach to school age children. Our San Antonio Astronomy club does a lot of school outreach, with very few problems. However, you do need to get, and maintain control of the situation.

#36 dale67cameron


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Posted 24 January 2013 - 08:41 PM

I enjoy doing outreach. I set my tripod extended fairly high, so that kids can't touch the glass on my scope. Then i set up a step ladder for the kids to step up on and hang on to the ladder when viewing. I had a kid grab the handle on my meade 10" sct tube and swing down off the ladder hanging on to it to exit a few months ago. It threw the alignment off since it slipped the clutches on my eq6, but fortunately didn't cause any damage. I realigned and was back in business for the rest of the evening. I have been more selective in volunteering since. I tend to volunteer more for adult groups when I am taking one of my nicer scopes. I am going to setup my 4" refractor on a alt az mount for large groups of kids in the future. I won't be as uneasy about a little acrobat showing up again.

#37 Raginar



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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:29 AM

You could ask to sink a simple wooden pier near the school that you could mount your scope on. Takes the necessity of watching the tripod out of the mix.

#38 Kraus



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Posted 09 March 2013 - 05:43 PM

You are not in the wrong. Helping is OK but the receiver must be gracious. I see none in your situation. Enjoy the sky.

#39 skinnyonce


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Posted 09 March 2013 - 08:24 PM

Yes,, I also agree with this as a reason for my lack of public participation...

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.


#40 MattT


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Posted 10 March 2013 - 11:49 AM

I enjoy outreach but don't do many elementary schools anymore. In my area at least, these events are usually all-school events where only a few kids are actually interested in the scopes, and most are more excited about the novelty of running around the schoolyard at night. I don't blame them....they're just kids. To use the OP example of an event at a K-5 school, maybe limit the astronomy event to grades 4-5, where you might expect a little more maturity.

But outreach events can be fun even for fairly young children, if they and/or their parents are genuinely interested in what we have to offer. Oftentimes it's not just the kids, but the mother or dad or grandparent or teacher who's getting their first look through a decent telescope, and if you believe in outreach that's an opportunity not to be missed. Maybe have an advance signup for the telescope viewing, so only kids or families with some interest have access. If it's at a general school event, maybe set up the scopes in a quiet area off to the side and give the kids who sign up early a star-shaped sticker-badge or something that will be fun, and give them access - when escorted by an adult - to the telescope area.

Just thinking out loud....in the end if a person doesn't feel comfortable, safe or appreciated you're under no obligation. Clear and peaceful skies to you all!

#41 Kraus



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Posted 24 March 2013 - 10:04 AM

I think outreach programs are operated backwards. If someone is interested, they'll come to me. Me going to them is futile. You can't pique interest if it ain't there.

#42 Patrick


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Posted 24 March 2013 - 10:26 AM

Kids will be kids, no matter who or where they are. As a presenter, it's our jobs to talk with the teachers, parents and kids to lay down any necessary ground rules. Before we let kids do any observing through our expensive gear, we tell them the rules...no touching the telescopes, no running around the scopes, no white lights etc. If they have a wanted disregard for the rules, there's a good chance they're going to get scolded and the entire school not get on the list for next years star party.


#43 SkipW


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Posted 24 March 2013 - 12:54 PM

I think outreach programs are operated backwards. If someone is interested, they'll come to me. Me going to them is futile. You can't pique interest if it ain't there.

Wouldn't that be "inreach"? :)

#44 Skylook123



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Posted 24 March 2013 - 03:02 PM

I think outreach programs are operated backwards. If someone is interested, they'll come to me. Me going to them is futile. You can't pique interest if it ain't there.

That would seem exquisitely short sighted. Interest doesn't grow in a vacuum, nor from darkness without exposure. In the last two years alone, by doing outreach events at local schools, we've had nine families with 18 children join our club's family education program. They didn't know they were interested until we went to them.

Because our grandchilren live far away from us, I didn't know what their interest was in astronomy so I re-built a 10" dob and took it to Colorado for their family three years ago. Three of the oldest four are now teaching astronomy to visitors at parks. Thirteen year old Stephen asked to come down here to join me at a local event, and using some of my spare equipment he taught both solar observing in daytime and night sky wonders at the Astronomy Magazine Tucson star party, as well as two school events and Univ. of Ariz. astronomy students' first night events.

And his older sisters, now 18 and 17 and both black belt Tai Kwan Do instructors and one a hot air balloon pilot, have been running my scopes at the Grand Canyon Star Party for two years. They are very adept at explaining stellar life cycles, visible planet facts, double star behavior and color meanings, and the nature of planetary nebulae. I never would have known of their hidden abilities if I hadn't dropped the scope off with them.

Speaking of which, about 110 of us astronomers work with over 1,400 visitors each night on the South Rim for a week each June. WE are coming to THEM, and the response is tremendous. I get a couple of dozen unsolicited emails from visitors in the weeks after each year's events talking about the life altering awakening. I've even heard from families helping start school science clubs after returning from their vacations. The best galaxy observer I know had no real interest or awareness of astronomy fifty years ago in Chicago and was kind of aimless going through school, but a local amateur invited science students to a local park to do some observing. It changed Paul's life. Not only did the experience open his mind, he actually fealt a musical inspiriation. He now is a concert pianist and piano teacher as well as having built his own sixteen inch reflector and machined a Beyers style equatorial mount. Several years ago, when we were planning future dates for GCSP and pondering the effect of the moon on the early evenings with visitors versus late evening for the astronomers, he pushed us to favor the limited lunar impingement for the visitors. His closing statement was, "You never know what one life you'll touch." And at least ten percent of the visitors to my scopes say something along the lines of they didn't even know this sort of activity existed.

It's certainly not a character flaw to not want to do outreach. We astronomers tend to flock to the solitary exploration of the sky. Perfectly OK to say no to outreach. But if one enjoys the interaction and seeing the awakening, and, like me, you've seen all the faint fuzzies you care to, it sure is interesting to see some of them all over again through new eyes. As Paul said, you never know what one life you might touch. But part one is going to them; they don't know what they don't know.

#45 Spacetravelerx



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Posted 29 March 2013 - 09:32 AM

Well my quick 2 cents of chiming in...

* I have done outreach with the whole range of ages at schools including brothers, sisters, parents, grand parents, etc. Nothing but highly positive and fun. Many adults even shake my hand thanking me for the opportunity. I thank them for letting me share with them!

* For the big events (Annular Eclipse, Transit of Venus) out in public places the crowds were very well behaved and LOTS of questions. People were mesmerized. New friends to be made. Telescopes, laptops, eyepieces survived, lol!

* I still go to concerts - Moody Blues was an amazing concert. And most of the old timers (98% were 45 and up) were well behaved ;-) Even have seen Cold Play, Pit Bull, Neil Young, etc. Fine concerts. No problems at all.

* BTW - biggest non astro question at the outreach events. You must be rich! How much does that rig cost??!?

* Second biggest question - "Are you a professional astronomer? NO? You just do this for fun??!?"

Maybe it is the region? Community? Cloudy day/night for all the negative vibes for some others? For my family and I we have a blast sharing and interacting with the community.

#46 davidpitre



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Posted 07 April 2013 - 04:05 PM

Certainly no one has any obligation to do outreach, and I suppose it takes certain personality types to pull it off. I generally observe by myself, but outreach is something very different (isn't this the outreach forum?).
After many many events with much expensive equipment, I can say I have never had any real problems of significance. I have done events with ghetto kids to privileged private schools, and found kids are generally respectful and almost always self-controlled at the scope when given proper directives. Get teachers to help, and give everyone clear instructions about what to do and what not to do.

#47 Ebyl


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Posted 07 April 2013 - 05:10 PM

I think outreach programs are operated backwards. If someone is interested, they'll come to me. Me going to them is futile. You can't pique interest if it ain't there.

Many people don't realize they have an interest in something until presented with an opportunity to explore that subject. I've personally seen this played out over and over regarding astronomy.

People may also know they have a potential interest, but just never take the time to give themselves the opportunity to explore it. Sometimes that means the interest will never turn into much even if given a chance, but not always. Sometimes if presented with an opportunity, the interest will develop into a part of their lives.

That's what outreach is for - giving people a chance to discover or further develop an interest in astronomy when the they're not taking that initial step for whatever reason. It's an extremely important aspect of the hobby, but not one an amateur astronomer must participate in. It's right for some people and wrong for others.

#48 PaulEK



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Posted 15 April 2013 - 10:34 AM

I work with kids every day, and have for thirty years. I find that, as long as I am firm and clear, they will meet bare requirements for behavior, especially if I have control over something they are interested in. And I've met very few kids who were not interested in the chance to look through a telescope, or going into my portable planetarium. I always make sure that everyone -- including the adults -- understands that there will be consequences for not following the rules. I've only had significant problems a few times, and in thinking about it, it's always been with the adults supposedly in charge of the group. It's tough to get kids to follow your directions when the adults they look to are not backing you up.

#49 BigC



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Posted 15 April 2013 - 12:21 PM

Agree with "adults are the problem";children push to the limits,and if adults don't do their job as parents and insist on apropiate behavior there will be trouble.And not just at astronomy outreach.

#50 Matthew Ota

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 10:06 AM

The second most common question after asking how much does the scope cost is... how much does it weigh? I tell them it weighs about four grunts...which is what it takes to load and unload it from my truck.

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