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How young is too young?

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#1 trw

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 04:05 PM

I've had two outreach programs recently for general audiences that were attended by very young children who acted afraid. One was a solar program which I began by warning people not to view the sun through binoculars or a telescope without appropriate filtration at the risk of damaging their eyes. A very distressed (nearly crying!) little girl told me she was very afraid of burning her eyes! I reassured her that the telescopes were safe, and she could not burn herself, but she still looked worried. Others were worried about space weather events. The second program was a winter stars session, and several quite young children wanted to know if the asteroid or a meteor would hurt them. I realized "very unlikely" has little meaning to a small child. What do others do about this? I don't want to discourage children from enjoying the sky, but how to prevent scaring kids, especially with recent events?

#2 michael hester

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Posted 19 February 2013 - 04:32 PM

I think that the cut off point for too young is how well they're behaved around the equipment. You will never be able to alleviate the fears of children that are not your own. They will only trust their parents.

It is up to you to educate their parents about the safety of solar viewing and the likelihood of a meteor strike. You're there to be the expert for them.

#3 DavidC

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 10:36 PM

Too young in my experience is those younger than 3rd or 4th grades, especially when they don't have the slightest idea where to look, even after you show them the ep. Younger ones, no matter how much you tell them to not to grab the ep, or touch the telescope, that does not register to them what that means. They are afraid of climbing a step ladder, and they see the ep as something solid to hold on to, even with mom or dad there. Adults can be just as bad, and I've gotten upset B-4 with adults grabbing the ep or pushing on the ota after you tell them not to do that. Must have been from that labotomy they recently had.
David

#4 Bob Moore

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Posted 20 February 2013 - 11:32 PM

I have done outreach with thousands of kids from K-12, with the youngest ones you have to take a very different tact, the K-3 kids are inherently afraid of any thing they don't understand. you need to make things they don't understand fun. Starting out with " don't ever look at the sun! you will burn your eyes, and never see again!!! and then tell them so lets go look at the sun in my telescope ... looking at the sun with little ones should only be done with a solar pin hole box, or something like that. another good demo to show the power of the sun is bottle cap with a little water in it and a magnifying glass, the kids get it. the other thing you need to lay out are questions, little kids love to ask questions, but in many case's there questions are something like " did you know that my dad said that the sun never sleeps". I just completed a three day (one per week ) with 25 4th and 5th graders, the first day we did general astronomy, the next day we did the life cycle of a star, and we even did some supernova hunting with real time data, and today we did comets, and asteroids. so when working with kids no matter what age you need to be very flexible in how and what you say.

#5 kenrenard

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 07:07 AM

I built a sun funnel for my young kids. Even my two year old asks to see the sunspots. We use a small tabletop reflector on the ground. She and many other kids in the neighborhood look with us all the time. I have found that the easiest to show young ones the sun. Even adults freak out about the sun.

I guess me being their Dad helps since I have had them around scopes for a while.

I did a program with my daughters first grade class and I thought they did really well. They do get excited, and a bit crazy but that is half the fun.

We have had quite a few kids in our yard and it has gone very well.

Ken

#6 csrlice12

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 10:44 AM

If they are old enough to look up at the sky in awe and wonder....they're ready. Equipment use and safety is a learned skill that can be taught.

I've also found that most kids, especially young ones, have a lot of trust in their parents, and if there parents will "show them the proper way" (i.e. they'll listen to you), then even young children will be excited. I'd rather smash an Ethos with a hammer then tell someone they are "too young to understand".....if they express an interest, is that not "trying to understand"?

#7 kenrenard

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 01:42 PM

If they are old enough to look up at the sky in awe and wonder....they're ready. Equipment use and safety is a learned skill that can be taught.

I've also found that most kids, especially young ones, have a lot of trust in their parents, and if there parents will "show them the proper way" (i.e. they'll listen to you), then even young children will be excited. I'd rather smash an Ethos with a hammer then tell someone they are "too young to understand".....if they express an interest, is that not "trying to understand"?



That is the truth. I believe John Dobson said "It is our duty to get out our telescopes and show the people of this earth the universe"

#8 Chuck Hards

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 06:21 PM

The comment on parental involvement is spot-on. As soon as a kid can comprehend the idea of us living on a planet and looking up into space, they are ready.

In my own case, I was about six when the bug bit hard. Of course, in the mid-sixties the US had a kick-butt space program, and Star Trek was in prime-time. My parents bought me a small refractor when I was in the first grade, and by 1968, at age ten, I was designing and building my first Newtonian. I couldn't have done it without my father's mentoring and the help I received from more advanced amateurs in the community as well as science-minded grade-school teachers.

The youngest astro-nerds are still out there, and you can stick another feather in your cap every time you identify one and steer them in the right direction.

You'll probably know right off when you encounter one, just from the questions they ask you.

#9 csrlice12

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 11:27 AM

There are those who go "Cool" and "Wow" and go on (some even pick up astronomy as a hobby).....the ones to reach out to, are those who have no words.......all you need do is look into their eyes.....if you can peel them away from your scope.......






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