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I've been asked to give a lecture with my telescope for my kid's 1st grade class

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#1 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:11 AM

My kid's 1st grade teacher asked if I wanted to bring my telescope in for a lesson during their 'Solar System' week at their school.  

 

I was thinking about maybe trying to show and teach them about sunspots, although it seems very quiet right now with no sunspots even visible.  the lecture is tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday the 13th.

 

I bought a solar filter so I'm going to give it a test run this weekend.  

 

I'm not really sure what else I could even look at during the day.  I could maybe try to see the crescent moon, but I'm not even sure if it is possible.  The lecture would be around noon or so.  

 

I also plan to just teach them about the scope in general.  

 

Any ideas/suggestions?  I'm a little nervous even though a bunch of 7 year old kids will probably be happy just to see a telescope. 

 

Thanks!


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#2 happylimpet

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:31 AM

Put a model of Saturn on a telegraph pole a mile away and show them that? In all seriousness! Show the power of the scope!


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#3 sixtysomething

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:34 AM

The school may not allow solar observing, I'd definitely inquire in advance about that.

 

Looking at Stellarium for the 13th around noon there will be a thin crescent moon visible to the South Southwest, depending on your scope/eyepiece that could be a good target. Bear in mind a lot of  kids will have a hard time seeing anything in the eyepiece, if you have a camera and portable display for it that might be a better way to go with a young audience, no focusing issues and no "I can't see anything" issues. 


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#4 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:35 AM

i won't have a clear shot at something a mile away, but that is a good idea!

 

i could place it a few hundred yards away for sure though



#5 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:38 AM

The school may not allow solar observing, I'd definitely inquire in advance about that.

 

Looking at Stellarium for the 13th around noon there will be a thin crescent moon visible to the South Southwest, depending on your scope/eyepiece that could be a good target. Bear in mind a lot of  kids will have a hard time seeing anything in the eyepiece, if you have a camera and portable display for it that might be a better way to go with a young audience, no focusing issues and no "I can't see anything" issues. 

 

i will double check, good call.   i don't have a portable display for my camera.  that is a good idea though.  

 

the moon may be a good idea.  it is an 8" dob and i'll have a little step ladder.  My kids usually can see through the scope just fine, but then again it has always been at night time



#6 dr.who

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:39 AM

If there are local mountains or other geographical features you can point the scope at that. And the sun, even in white light, can be cool since it is the one time they can see it safely. I always say “how many times can you look at the sun without special stuff?” Answer: Twice. Even with sun glasses. Once in one eye and then in the other because you will go blind so never ever look at the sun! You would be surprised at how important it is to say this.

I have also found a brief discussion with PowerPoint slides if possible showing what we can see at night and how it looks in a telescope is good followed by a open Q&A session works well.

Be prepared for a good amount of questions on black holes, will the earth get eaten by a black hole, will the sun blow up, and are there aliens. Make sure to praise each question as being a good one and a smart one no matter how silly. Especially for the girls.

When a question is asked where there is no current answer, like can we go to other planets outside the solar system, my favorite answer is “not yet, but maybe if you study very hard and become a scientist you can find a way!”
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#7 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:44 AM

If there are local mountains or other geographical features you can point the scope at that. And the sun, even in white light, can be cool since it is the one time they can see it safely. I always say “how many times can you look at the sun without special stuff?” Answer: Twice. Even with sun glasses. Once in one eye and then in the other because you will go blind so never ever look at the sun! You would be surprised at how important it is to say this.

I have also found a brief discussion with PowerPoint slides if possible showing what we can see at night and how it looks in a telescope is good followed by a open Q&A session works well.

Be prepared for a good amount of questions on black holes, will the earth get eaten by a black hole, will the sun blow up, and are there aliens. Make sure to praise each question as being a good one and a smart one no matter how silly. Especially for the girls.

When a question is asked where there is no current answer, like can we go to other planets outside the solar system, my favorite answer is “not yet, but maybe if you study very hard and become a scientist you can find a way!”

unfortunately this will be from Philly, so not much to look at.   

 

i think just a general lesson in the scope would be good too.  another poster suggesting hanging up a little model of saturn or something.  that could def work.  



#8 JamesMStephens

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:52 AM

What kind of telescope do you have?



#9 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 11:52 AM

What kind of telescope do you have?

8" dob


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#10 NiteGuy

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 12:01 PM

Even a distant telephone pole transformer is enough to show the MAGIC of what telescopes can do! Truthfully, to this day, my telescopes still never cease to amaze me.



#11 paulymo

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 12:44 PM

If the classroom (like my kid's) has a smartboard that can be hooked up to your computer, I'd bring in your laptop (if you have one) and run Stellarium to show them where and when the planets are in the the sky now.  You could whip up a model of the solar system as it is THAT NIGHT using craft store bits so they can put together what they see in the sky (or on the screen) and how it relates to where the planets (and the moon) are in their orbits.  

 

Then of course they'll want to play with stuff so yeah let 'em loose on the dob and any binoculars you might have.

 

Good luck!



#12 Joshiewowa

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 12:56 PM

When I gave a presentation for Second graders at my grade school, I talked very basic about how it worked and what it did, and used it to show them the clock at the end of a long hallway.

 

I used an ETX-60.

 

I also showed them pictures of the planets, sun, and moon I've taken and explained.



#13 jeffreym

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 01:04 PM

I have had kids observe the moon in the day time as I was always a little nervous about having the sun as a target with a lot of activity around.  I like the idea of just a distant target, even a picture of Jupiter or Saturn or the Moon.  Cut out a picture of yourself waiving back and stick it on the thing.  I also like to leave the kids with something.  Something like the  Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar or a nice pencil like the 4 Dozen OUTER Space PENCILS - GALAXY Planets available on Amazon for $12 (let the teacher pass it out as they see fit).


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#14 Jim Davis

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 01:31 PM

To show kids how a telescope works, I took magnifying glass. Used it to show them an image of the classroom lights on the table, to show how a telescope forms an image. I took an eyepiece along, and held them together to make a telescope. I also had a jeweler's loop. I showed them how it magnifies small things, then used it as an eyepiece with the lens. They may have grown up to be a bunch of ATMs.


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#15 Vic Menard

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 02:10 PM

Check the Last Quarter Moon tomorrow morning to see how long you can observe it after sunrise, then maybe plan for next month's Last Quarter Moon for the class. One of the cool features of the Last Quarter Moon is its position in space--ahead of us in our orbit around the Sun. This means when you look at the Last Quarter Moon, you're looking at where you will be, in space, in about three and a half hours (we're moving about 66,000 mph around the Sun). So if you have the class observe the Last Quarter Moon around 8:30 in the morning, you can tell them that's where they'll be in space when they sit down to have lunch! This unique opportunity to use the Moon as a sign post is courtesy of Guy Ottewell, of Furman University.

 

While we're on the subject of Guy Ottewell, his solar system program, "The Earth as a Peppercorn" ( https://www.noao.edu...orn/pcmain.html ) is a terrific program for elementary students (I've presented the program to K through 5 and they all had a great time). You can order the booklet here: ( http://www.universal...y-ottewell/tym/ ) If you've never done the program before, you will amaze the students, the teacher, and yourself at the emptiness of space, the incredible distances between the planets, and the knowledge that we've already sent multiple probes to study them! Be forewarned, this program starts in a classroom, but needs to move outside (preferably with a clear 250 yard straight line path) to get the participants as far as Saturn (Neptune and Uranus need an additional 500 yards!) I usually stop at Saturn, adjourn to the classroom, and then it's Q&A time--you'll be stunned at the questions you'll get from 2nd graders, be prepared for anything from cosmology to your insights on extraterrestrial life. I'm pretty sure I have a pdf of my "crib notes" for the program if you're interested.

 

FYI--the early morning Last Quarter Moon seems to work best for me (west coast of Florida) in the late fall, early winter months. You'll need to determine what works best for you in Philly. The nighttime First Quarter Moon is always a great target for early evening, but in the summertime it doesn't get dark before the elementary kids need to be headed home...and the sign post is reversed (where we were three and a half hours earlier), not as cool as Last Quarter.  shrug.gif

 

Saturn reaches opposition on June 27th this year, so by August when the next school year starts, it will be well placed in the early evening sky (although pretty low on the southern horizon in the constellation Sagittarius). Everyone remembers their first view of Saturn...


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#16 Bob4BVM

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 02:25 PM

I've been doing this at our school for some time.

Above poster is correct about black holes etc. The kids will surprise you with what they already know and especially their enthusiasm !

Don't worry, have fun, they will click in on your love for the hobby.

I usually do a class presentation for the whole school (1-8) and then we do a star party that night by the school. Lots of fun.  My next one is next Friday, praying for clear skies !

If you do the Sun, spend alot of time discussing the precautions to be sure they all get the danger aspect. Relate that they should NEVER use any optic to look at the sun, only to be done with help of a properly equipped ASTRONOMER, like yourself !!!  I always encourage all the kids to bring any binocs or scopes they may have for the star-party sessions, BUT I would NEVER allow other optics at a sun-viewing session

Also mention the light pollution problem, use satellite imagery to show how bad it is on a global scale.

Thanks for promoting the hobby !

CS

Bob


Edited by Bob4BVM, 08 March 2018 - 02:26 PM.

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#17 jjbag

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 02:30 PM

Thinking you could also bring a scale of distance, how close the moon is to earth, then the long distance between earth and other planets, then when you have that set up, you can put a pen on the furthest spot in the room and say thats where our nearest star would be.. give them then beginning sense of how huge our universe is.. just a thought.



#18 ToxMan

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 02:37 PM

My rule of thumb for any lecture is know your audience. Duh. Anyways, my point is I would think like a 6 year old.

 

As a 6 year old, I would be thrilled just to look through it at anything. And, a simple explanation of what a telescope is, a tool of astronomers, it's parts, how it gathers light, magnifies things, what astronomers look at..but, I have a short attention span, and really just want to look through it. And, starting to wiggle around my seat because this guy is talking too long and using big words I don't know...

 

Good luck. It will be fun.


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#19 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 02:38 PM

this is great advice so far, thanks everyone for taking the time!

 

i bought some of those pencils.  the kids will love that i think.  

 

i'll be putting something together tonight probably, and i'll report back with my plans.  i'm loving the ideas though!  keep them coming!



#20 sg6

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 02:40 PM

Approximately what time of day is this lecture/demo taking place? Also how long in duration ?

Thoughts are that kids expect a telescope to show things in the sky like planets, the moon, and the classic faint fuzzies like M42 etc. However that means nighttime.

 

Equally an astronomy talk is very likely to end up black holes, gravity waves, merging black holes and whatever goes BANG in a big way. At a recent talk on light and the spectrum the first 2 questions from the kids were "black holes".

Also you may be surprised by the amount they know and what they know about.

 

If it is a Solar System week then aim the majority at the solar system, that I assume is what the teachers expect.

 

Maybe as a related item search out images from ALMA that show the protoplanetary disks from which solar systems form.

 

There is the Trappist system of planets. Maybe get an image of the Kepler Orrery showing the exoplanets discovered so far.

 

If any viewing have you something other then the dobsonian?

Thinking tracking and EQ or Alt/Az. Dobsonians are not always the easiest thing to use first time.

 

Not sure what state the sun is at, not looked and hear very little about any sunspots at this time.

Equally not sure about an 8" newtonian and the sun either.

Just seems too big for my liking. But I do have a selection of 3, 4 and 5 inch scopes. Which I feel happier with.

 

Check if, as mentioned, the moon is around during dylight hours, it may be.



#21 HarryRik9

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 02:59 PM

This is an example of people giving you advice when the required lesson goal objective is not clearly stated. What exactly is the teachers lesson goal? To understand what a telescope is and how it works or something else.



#22 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 04:36 PM

This is an example of people giving you advice when the required lesson goal objective is not clearly stated. What exactly is the teachers lesson goal? To understand what a telescope is and how it works or something else.

 

she is leaving that up to me - i'm pretty sure the goal is just to keep 6/7 year old kids interested for 30 minutes.  

 

i think a lecture on the telescope while looking at a pic of saturn a hundred yards away would be pretty cool.  doing a scale demo too about distances would be neat.

 

the sunspots would be awesome, but its very possible the weather will not hold.  i'm also a little wary about kids trying to look at the sun so i may just drop that idea



#23 Nick K.

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 04:43 PM

Boy oh boy, did HarryRik9 hit a home run with his comment.  Ask the teacher what she would like you to cover and how much time you have !  I can understand people's enthusiasm about teaching kids about astronomy but having done it and thinking you would like to do it are two very different things.  Check with teacher first, especially to see what she has already covered.  Kids won't hesitate to yell, "Mrs. Smith already taught us that!"  I've been there, I've done that, including presentations at a private observatory.  It can be very rewarding or one of life's most embarrassing events if you go off half-cocked without asking the teacher what she wants.  Good luck.



#24 PhillyAstronomer

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 04:48 PM

Boy oh boy, did HarryRik9 hit a home run with his comment.  Ask the teacher what she would like you to cover and how much time you have !  I can understand people's enthusiasm about teaching kids about astronomy but having done it and thinking you would like to do it are two very different things.  Check with teacher first, especially to see what she has already covered.  Kids won't hesitate to yell, "Mrs. Smith already taught us that!"  I've been there, I've done that, including presentations at a private observatory.  It can be very rewarding or one of life's most embarrassing events if you go off half-cocked without asking the teacher what she wants.  Good luck.

i have, and i think she is OK with talking about the scope and looking at a pic to show the power of it.  I talked with her a little bit ago about it.  This will be on the 2nd day of the week so it will still be early in the lesson plans.   

 

she'd also be cool with trying to find the moon or looking at a sunspot, but as of now it is looking like it will be cloudy.  



#25 aeajr

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 05:36 PM

What time is the session?  How long do you have?

 

If you want to talk about telescopes, bring a make-up mirror.  One side is flat and one magnifies.   Explain that the big telescope does this but to a higher level. 

 

Saturn will be in the SE and high enough till around 11 am.  Not sure if you could get a look during the day.   Never tried Saturn during the day.

 

The moon will be up in the daytime on March 13th.   At 11 am it will be almost dead South at about 35 degrees.( using Stellarium for this)   It will be only a thin crescent but you may be able to see more than that in your scope.  Try it the day before. 

 

I think the kids would get a kick out of seeing the moon during the day.  They probably have not even noticed that it is there during the day.

 

If it were me, I would do a session on the Moon and talk about where the Apollo astronauts walked on the moon.  Then show them the locations with your telescope if you can.  Not sure that will work with a cresent moon.  Add a video of men walking on the moon. 

 

You could talk about rockets and how we plan to go back to the moon.  Perhaps one of them will become an astronaut and be one of those who go to the moon.   A video of a rocket launch would be fun.  

https://www.youtube....h?v=8VvfTY-tVzI

 

Maybe talk about the space station and being able to see it as it passes overhead.

http://iss.astroview...observation.php

 

If you want to take it a step further you could talk about our having a satellite circling the moon.  The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter  which is mapping the moon so we can get ready to go back. https://en.wikipedia...issance_Orbiter

https://www.space.co...mike-pence.html

 

Or satellites circling Jupiter, Mars and Saturn.  Rovers on Mars.

 

Just some ideas.  I would say the goal should be more to inspire and generate curiosity than have a real science lesson plan.

 

 

See if they will let you come back for an observing session that night.   Maybe bring a friend with another telescope.  Invite parents to bring binoculars.

 

This weekend we "spring ahead 1 hour so by 8:00 pm on the 13th:

  • Orion will be high in the southern sky.
  • Who doesn't love the Orion Nebula
  • The Pleiades and the Hyades cluster will be very visible with binoculars.  
  • The big dipper will be up.  You can split Mizar and Alcor
  • Alpha Persei Cluster near Mirfak will be very visible in binoculars
  • Unfortunately no planets till about 3 am.  But, if you have some parents there who get up early, around 6 am Jupiter will be up and very visible.

All good targets that they can spot themselves. 


Edited by aeajr, 08 March 2018 - 06:31 PM.

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