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Putting the Party Back in Star Party -HS Outreach

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#1 jmandell

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Posted 18 January 2014 - 07:08 PM

Recently I've been working more on doing some outreach on my own outside of my astronomy club, and I think I've found an idea that has some potential.

(A little background: I'm a junior in high school, and I do a lot of outreach with my astronomy clubs, but most of that is with either small children or adults, and I'm trying to get more kids my age into astronomy.)

The problem (it seems) with engaging with other high schoolers is trying to convince them to give up their Saturday nights and spend it looking through a photon tube in the freezing cold :question: My solution to this is to pair astronomy with something high schoolers love, partying and hanging out.

I alpha tested this idea in late December with 8 friends and we did some observing for about an hour or so (until the clouds rolled in), then we went in to warm up. Inside we just hung out, played billiards and air hockey, etc. I tried to make it fun, yet educational at the same time by explaining some of the science behind the objects we viewed and how different telescope designs work.

I received quite a bit of good feed back from those in attendance, even from those who arrived late and got clouded out. I'll be doing another test run in next week, and I was wondering if anyone had experience with such a thing, or if anyone had any other ideas for introducing high schoolers to astronomy.

#2 Jim T

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Posted 25 January 2014 - 11:43 PM

I am more than a little surprised that there were no other responses to this post from several days ago!

I applaud you for this. I would do similar with my parents' friends when I was young, but I was too hesitant with my high school friends. Good of you to mix it up. You may never know what you may 'trip up' with this small effort, although it may be years from now.

The skies can be contagious - - for some people. Even for those who aren't enamored with the skies, they will know that this means a great deal to you. Those who can, will respect you for it.

I recommend that you stay with the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep it simple) and stay with planets and the Moon, or other very obvious objects like M42 or M31. Without explaining the science behind it, the "Whoa!" factor won't sink in, so keep it up.

Those who are impressed (or are "infected" like me) should be directed to local club outreach efforts. A little exposure begs for more exposure.

#3 patg43

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Posted 26 January 2014 - 03:47 AM

Well, frankly Jim I am too! Jmandell, I hope you took advantage of this Supernova hubbub to drum up some party-goers. If your within a week idea did happen let us know how it went, could ya? I am intrigued by everything I see up there, and I think others your age can be too. I feel your multifaceted approach to this sort of gathering could prove quite successful. I know we take many breaks for warm uhh well warm anything! It is nice to entertain in the meantime. I hope success is yours. And clear skies to you, youngster.

#4 jmandell

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 06:21 AM

Thanks for the encouragement guys!

Jim: I've mostly be sticking to the show pieces, but I've found that after showing the bright objects some are more impressed when I hunt down some of the faint and small galaxies!

Pat: unfortunately I havent been able to do another one yet :( I had one scheduled, but unexpected clouds rolled in about a hour before it started. It doesn't appear I will be able to do anything anytime soon. This Ohio weather is brutal this year!

#5 csrlice12

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 09:13 AM

John Dobson would be proud of you......

#6 patg43

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Posted 27 January 2014 - 09:47 PM

John Dobson would be proud of you......

Indeed. +1

I really enjoy M35-37, almost anyone can see them, and they just look forever deep. Bummer on the party getting clouded out, there are bound to be some good weekends in the future.

#7 jmandell

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Posted 28 January 2014 - 08:42 PM

John Dobson would be proud of you......


Thank you!

Dobson is one of my idols, and that means a lot. If I could make just a small fraction of his impact in spreading astronomy I will be happy!

#8 geminijk

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Posted 29 January 2014 - 03:16 AM

John Dobson would be proud of you......

Indeed


+2!

Well done!

John

#9 DTH

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Posted 02 February 2014 - 06:59 AM

Every time I talk to some of my friends about doing an astronomy night, they always suggest doing a bond fire also. :foreheadslap: Guess that will be part of the education curve--they don't get the purpose of going to dark sky areas.

I like your idea of making it fun after doing some viewing with your friends.

#10 jmandell

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 11:21 PM

A little update:

I just got in from doing another session tonight! It had half as many as last time due to about 4 hours of notice before it started. I got home, saw the clear sky chart showed good, and decided to have a star party!

This one was more observing based (no clouds, finally!), but we did spend quite a bit of time just sitting around the telescope talking and the like.

As far as observing went, I did the show pieces like Jupiter, Orion, Pleiades, and the Double Cluster. After the big bright objects I went on to some of the fainter nebulae and galaxies, not expecting much reaction, but I was thoroughly surprised! The biggest hit of the night proved to be the supernova in M82! They were all really awed by being able to see the light of a single star exploding over 12 million light years away.


Overall, it was another great night sharing the wonders of the universe with some friends who otherwise would have probably never seen the wispy clouds of Orion or the beauty of a nice star cluster :)

#11 fnowat

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 11:32 PM

Congratulations Jmandell!!

John Dobson must be posthumously smiling.

I live 50 some miles outside of Chicago and local astromony clubs are too distant for me to actively get involved. The scheduled star parties tend to be on weekends (and I am usually working) or they get clouded over. So lately I have left word at a very nearby Jr high school for the principal, but the secretary passed it onto the science teachers and have yet to hear from them.

I understand your frustration. But as in the movie "Contact" phrased it something like 'small steps...'

I have taken the steps to just do a John Dobson spin-off and was just setting up the telescope on the town public square surrounded by lights but showing the usual crowd pleasing "big ticket items" like Jupiter, Orion sights, Gemini & Big Dipper star splitting fun.

Good Luck Jmandell

#12 jmandell

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 07:40 PM

A little update on this:

April is Global Astronomy Month, and this Saturday, April 5, is the Global Star Party. I currently have planned my biggest event yet, hoping to have 15-20 throughout the night! Also, I'm planning another party for the lunar eclipse on the 15th before school! Expect reports on these soon.

Thank you all for your encouragement!!! I'd love to hear any ideas as to improving these things if you have any!

#13 GeneT

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 08:08 PM

You know the young people of your age and therefore how to reach them. Great idea! However, once they see something through the telescope, they are reached in a special way, right?

#14 jmandell

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 08:30 PM

You know the young people of your age and therefore how to reach them. Great idea! However, once they see something through the telescope, they are reached in a special way, right?


I have noticed that I've hooked 5 or so who keep coming back for more!

#15 Gil V

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 10:44 PM

It might be the food.

#16 seawolfe

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Posted 04 April 2014 - 03:36 AM

April 5, huh? From the looks of the weather maps and cloud cover, the April 5 Global Star Party might be a wash for a great deal of the CONUS. :bawling:

#17 jmandell

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 08:18 PM

Sorry for the late update, but the GSP went great!

I had my biggest turn out yet, with a total of 14 getting to look at the wonders of the skies. By far the favorite object was not the moon or Jupiter, but rather the globular cluster M3! I was quite surprised by this (and rather pleased because globs are my favorite objects :) )!

Some of the comments from the event included:
"An awesome night!"
"A Brilliant time, need to do it again soon!", and my personal favorite:
"Super happy fun astronomy time!"

All in all it was a wonderful evening and I think it really helped get some of the kids into astronomy!

#18 seawolfe

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 07:21 AM

Great turnout! Good job on the globulars! Love the comments!

#19 Raginar

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 08:35 AM

I think it's awesome what you've done. Kudos to you. It takes a lot of work to do this, especially if you don't have a group of buddies to help out.






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