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Astronomy Night for second grade: agenda ideas?

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#1 DIO

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Posted 16 January 2014 - 11:09 PM

Hello all,

Gosh, I have not posted for years, used to be out 2-3 times a week before my kids were born, now I am out twice a year (shame, shame, I know ...).

BUT, I have a great opportunity. Talking to my daughter's teacher (second grade) I suggested we do an "Astronomy evening". The class is small - 17 kids - and I could set up 3 scopes (refractor, reflector, and SC). I used Stellarium to find out which night would be optimum (Jan 10th). Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. However, the idea was apparently discussed and the teacher came back asking me if I can do the event with the WHOLE second grade (around 60+ kids).

So, now things are getting serious. I mean, with 18 kids, we can spend some time talking solar system, stars and galaxies, I had printouts ready about the planets we would see that evening, some star charts, then I would split them in 3 groups and have them watch the targets of that evening and they could rotate, etc, etc.
But 60? With ONE person to handle the scopes? (i.e. myself). Is that even realistic?

So, I came to my good old CN forums with some of the friendliest people in the world and I am asking for advice. My main concerns are the max number of kids (we can repeat the event, no problem there) and then what to do and what to show.

Many thanks,
Dimitri

#2 SaberScorpX

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 02:10 AM

Hi Dimitri,

If there's a club in your area some members may want in on this. The school staff should take care of the crowd control. By myself I'd try two scopes with, say, Jove in one and Luna in the other. Then maybe the Pleiades and Orion Nebula. (Did you mean Feb 10?) Narrate and answer questions on the fly while they're taking turns viewing. Spread the word to bring any binoculars from home. Set up a laptop with astro images, videos, or a live feed. And they really dig the laser shows when we point out the sky treasures.
Most importantly have fun.

I remember only two of us from the club showing up to handle 250 scouts on a sugar-high stampeding in the dark
toward the observing field at once. The ground and scopes were shaking.
Quite a daunting experience until the dust settled and the panting troop leaders caught up to them.

Peace,
Stephen

#3 csrlice12

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 08:11 AM

Agree with Stephen. Many clubs probably already even have flyers and other hand-outs available; and many members would probably gladly pitch in. With a lot of kids, I'd probably go the video route, with a couple of scopes like Stephen said. As they are kids, each scope should have an adult "operator" (even if it's the teacher you just gave a quick 2-minute scope lesson too.) If you are outside, before it gets dark, maybe do something similar to the Sun is a basketball and here's the Earth, etc....

#4 Skylook123

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 05:43 PM

My experience is that with grade school level events, if one astronomer has more than one scope to man, that's too many scopes. With 60 "visitors", one rule of thumb is one scope and operator for every 15-20 students.

One other concern I would have about second grade. Many of the kids that age will have trouble with an eyepiece. I just recently learned that the ability for the brain to discriminate a visual object without context does not mature until about age 5 and may delay until age 7. So, our kids can see fine looking around their world, but in an eyepiece there is no context to compare the object with to aid the discrimination. And parents and we scope operators sometimmes put the "See it? See it?" pressure on, when some of our youngest customers truly haven't developed the processing capability yet.

Just some things to think about. The astro club idea is a good one. If there are 60, and if there are indoor activities to split time with so only a subset of 10 or 15 are coming to the scope at a time, it might be possible but second grade is a tough crowd to work with if more than a few are present at any time. And that's not trying to drive more than one instrument. Each visitor needs your full attention to enjoy and learn. And for some in that age group, just using the eyepiece is a challenge.

I hope you enjoy the experience!

#5 Bill Weir

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 03:16 PM

One other concern I would have about second grade. Many of the kids that age will have trouble with an eyepiece. I just recently learned that the ability for the brain to discriminate a visual object without context does not mature until about age 5 and may delay until age 7. So, our kids can see fine looking around their world, but in an eyepiece there is no context to compare the object with to aid the discrimination. And parents and we scope operators sometimmes put the "See it? See it?" pressure on, when some of our youngest customers truly haven't developed the processing capability yet.

second grade is a tough crowd to work with if more than a few are present at any time. And that's not trying to drive more than one instrument. Each visitor needs your full attention to enjoy and learn. And for some in that age group, just using the eyepiece is a challenge.

I hope you enjoy the experience!


This is an important point. I do quite a bit of random outreach in places where very young children "I want to look too".

First, with young ones I advise them to not even try closing one eye. I tell them leave both open and cover the one they won't be using with a hand. I find this can also help prevent them from grabbing at the scope.

Second, I circle the lens end of the eyepiece with my thumb and pointer finger. This guides them to the correct position over the lens. I find this can help with adult who have trouble. This technique also has the benefit of your forearm presenting itself as a barrier between the person and the scope.

Finally, be prepared for tears when some just won't be able to get it. I've found soft words of how when I was there age I couldn't see anything through a telescope either. Then I invite them to come back the next year and I'm sure they will have success then. It's not technically a lie because when I was that young I hadn't even looked through a telescope.

Bill

#6 DIO

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 07:35 PM

Valuable advice, everyone! I am reading carefully and taking notes! Many many thanks again!

#7 Bill Weir

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 11:42 PM

Oh and one more thing forget about deep sky. The Moon and Jupiter that's it. If the seeing is poor stick to the Moon. Even blurry it can impress. Besides with the little ones it's easy to see if they are on the Moon, just look at their face. The eye at the eyepiece will be bathed in light. I've also noticed with little ones when they get it they stop moving and just freeze. I find it a very cool thing to witness.

Bill

#8 MikeBOKC

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 09:09 AM

I have occasi0nally moderated the Cub Scout activity badge for astronomy and one element of it is to have them diagram the solar system. I found a more fun way to do that -- let them be the sun and planets. Put one kid in the center and then designate each "planet" to orbit him at increasing distances (extra kids are asteroids) telling them all a few basic factys about each planet as they are added. Then set them in motion to show how outer planets have longer orbits.

#9 RTLR 12

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 09:10 AM

Bill is correct about the targets you want to use for such a young crowd. The Moon and Jupiter are the best targets and the only ones you should use. They are easy to see and the Moon needs no explanation what so ever. Another thing you will need and this is very important, is you will need an adjustable platform for the kids to stand on so they can comfortably view through the EP. I use 2 different step stools and my Starbound chair for the kids. The step stools have a "Grab Handle" that help to keep them away from grabbing the EP and when I use the Starbound chair I tell the kids to sit on their hands. Making them comfortable is a big part of the process of getting a good viewing session. I also like 2 adults at the scope for the little ones. They can be a handful some times and they are always very, very quick. Having 2 adults at the scope just helps with the "Crowd Control".

Stan

#10 Skylook123

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 11:02 PM

As has been stated here, the Moon (if available when you gather) and Jupiter will be just fine for this age group. Other than prodigies, even these two will be a challenge to explain.

I understand this next point is not in your purview to accomplish, but it is how I have learned to handle three types of visitors: physically handicapped, optically handicapped (a surprising number of adults cannot integrate isolated images at night, i.e. eyepiece views, due to rod cell or optic nerve deficiencies), and children under the age of about eight or nine who just can't get the hang of (but sure can figure out how to hang ON) eyepieces. This picture was taken of my granddaughter and me doing a public service visit to the Kaibab Learning Center during the Grand Canyon Star Party. We had almost 20 day care students from about ages five through eight. Here's how we showed them the sun:

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#11 kfiscus

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 11:06 PM

I like to use my paired XT10/4.5 outreach scopes on an EQ platform to run a digital EP and TV combo. It works very nicely on the sun, moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.

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#12 Skylook123

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 11:08 PM

And here is how I set up my wife to do Saturn while I handled the indoor theater crowd. After getting the image in the monitor, I moved the table in front of the scope to isolate it and only have the monitor in view. If you will be doing mobility or visually disabled, or young folks so you only have to explain the view once and so they actually can SEE something, this is long term solution.

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#13 Skylook123

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 11:13 PM

I like to use my paired XT10/4.5 outreach scopes on an EQ platform to run a digital EP and TV combo. It works very nicely on the sun, moon, Jupiter, and Saturn.


Yes, Ken, I used to do the same with a $90 Orion Star Shoot Solar System Imager IV until I moved up to a Mallincam Junior and then a Junior Pro to add DSOs. There are lot of low cost options, IF one is going to explore outreach for more than a one time event.

#14 Skylook123

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Posted 19 January 2014 - 11:23 PM

But, back on topic, with that age group you'll need no more than 10 students at a scope at one time, less if possible, per scope, and enough adult support to keep the kids organized without it being a prison camp. The moon will thrill them.

Here's how we set up for kids and lunar observing at last year's Grand Canyon Star Party, using an eyepiece, with a cheap walker to hang onto, and a small stool to climb on. It is set overly high because we were going to shift to video when I came out of the theater; a low setup of the tripod would be used at school events:

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#15 Kraus

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 02:05 PM

Oh man.

One scope.

No more than five kids.

No child should not know another child well.

And make a parent attend. Someone has to keep them kids in line.

Objects.

Moon, a planet, a star and a star cluster for starters. Listen for the ooohhhhs and aaaaahs.

#16 patg43

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 05:43 PM

I gotta say, I like the walker! I need one of those for me!!
Dimitri, congrats to you for your wonderful children! Enjoy your party. You may try for a split group,alternating time and groups, possibly 2 night gig?

#17 CollinofAlabama

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:39 AM

Dimitri,

Definitely no less than one competent adult per scope. I speak from experience. Don't take three unless you have two adults competent to run your other two scopes with you.

Bon la chance

#18 csrlice12

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Posted 07 February 2014 - 12:41 PM

Just be sure that you have a long-eye relief eyepiece for those kids who wear glasses. Maybe a Baader Hyperion or NLV. If you have a kid who just can't seem to get it, a longer eye relief eyepiece can come in handy.

#19 StarStuff1

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Posted 08 February 2014 - 08:46 PM

I find that if I ask a youngster to describe what he/she is seeing helps a lot.

Also, the walker is a great idea. A few years ago I added a fold down step to one. Folds up for easy travel and works great for smallish kids or even adults who like to kneel down on the step. I like to sit on it sometimes between "customers".

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