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Attracting young people to our hobby

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#1 James Paulson

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 03:46 PM

Our club is aging and so is our hobby.

 

I am wondering what all of you are doing to attract and keep younger people engaged in our great hobby? We need them to come and join and step up.

 

Ideas?

 

James

 



#2 ShaulaB

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 04:11 PM

The new young people joining my club are primarily interested in imaging. The club does a lot to encourage and support astrophotography. Some of our experienced members generously share their time and knowledge. The new kids who stick with it for a few years get fairly good at it, and continue to participate in the hobby.

 

Not as many younger people are going after Astronomical League awards for visual observation. Driving to darker skies is a problem for doing that.


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#3 star acres

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 08:16 PM

I don't have a club. I take the telescope to the local airport on pancake breakfast Sunday. About half the people who get to use it are children. Kids have no money, so if the parents or grandparents are there, these kids have a chance to copy my telescope.
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#4 largefather

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 08:36 PM

What are you considering young? By the standards of this forum I imagine I'm in the camp of young in my early 30s. Haha

I think light pollution is honestly a big factor. I've wanted to own a telescope for years but having to live in an urban area (not even that urban but bad enough to kill the sky) made me think that there was no point. It was only after we moved to the rural area we live now that I thought it was worth it.

Can people observe in the city? Yes, I've learned that they can. However I would argue that for every kid growing up in the city that's one more kid who doesn't understand how beautiful the sky is at night. They've probably never seen it.
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#5 mikemarotta

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 08:41 PM

I agree with largefather that "young" is a relative term. I do know from other hobbies that having the disposable income and the free time to engage are the biggest factors. Sometimes, a professaional family (couple) will buy a telescope with the intention that it be for the family.

 

As for children children, what kid is not interested in stars and dinosaurs?

 

Getting the kid to a club meeting is a different matter entirely.

 

Thanks,

Mike M.


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#6 Napp

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 09:03 PM

My club does regular outreach events at a local park on the beach.  We get folks coming to the park but also beachgoers packing up at the end of the day.  We are working hard at publicizing these events on social media and local television.  We have been increasing out younger membership and our female membership.  When I say younger I mean children and young adults.  The young adults are more into astrophotography.  What I noticed is that getting the first teenager and having them participate in outreach with their own scope helps attract other teenagers.  The same with women joining.  Having women participate in outreach with their own scopes makes the hobby and club more accessable to other women.  One thing that has been responsible for our growth is having loaner telescopes available.  We have several 6 inch DOBs and one 10 inch DOB available for loan to members.  We encourage newbies to use the loaners to gain familiarity with telescopes and observing before buying a scope.  We are planning an event in October that will be heavily publicized that will be focused on what to look for in buying a new scope for Christmas.  In January we will have our annual session on how to set up and use the new scopes gotten at Christmas.


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#7 dnrmilspec

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 10:24 PM

Totally agree with NAPP.  I would add a few things.

 

I deal with a lot of college age and younger folks and they want to actually do stuff.  They want to touch it and they want to operate it.  Go to many public outreach events and young people are told to not touch, be careful, and generally talked down to.  So they don't like it.  Who would?

 

At one outreach event I watched a young lady around 10-11 years old go from scope to scope only to be told, "we are just setting up".  So when she got to my scope I asked her if she wanted to help me set up.  She said she did not know how so I told her I would teach her.  And I walked her through setting up and aligning my 6" refractor and EQ-6 mount.  In the process we discussed how to balance the scope, what the different kinds of scopes she could see around her were and how to roughly polar align the scope.  Then I handed her the had controller and talked her through actually aligning the scope and going to the first object.  Her mom just stood back in wonder to see her daughter do this with the "big expensive scope".  I mean really folks, how hard is it?  Not vary.  What could she hurt?  Not a thing.  What could she gain?  A lifetime of wonder and a mainline dose of science.  She made the loop of the other scopes then came back to mine.  I told her to listen to what we were saying about the  object we were viewing,  so she could do it in the future.  Then, after about an hour, I handed her the controller again, looked at the line at my scope and told her to take over while I was "looking for a friend".  Which she did. Then I went out of sight and kept an eye on her.  (Mom was with her too.)

 

Not trying to toot my own horn and I know that some of you are in shock at the notion that a 10 year old was driving a 6" refractor all by herself but why would this be a surprise?  Care to guess what our youth know about computers?  They live on them everyday.  They troubleshoot them.  What is a hand controller to learn compared to a laptop and all of the myriad software they have to use just to go to 4th grade? 

 

So at your club, if you really want to have young people get engaged and involved, put them to work.  Work on telescopes.  Telling other folks about the sky.  Taking those loners home and NOT just the toys.  Make it perfectly clear to all members that ALL members are equal.  Young people are not "junior members".  Maybe have one or two officers.  Maybe the "youth outreach coordinator".  And make sure some adults work for them and under their supervision.

 

One of the most popular astrophotography sites on the internet is run by a young lady who started teaching AP online at 13 years old. She is just now 18 and I have learned from her.  I have telescopes much older than her.  (Her name is Helena and I recommend everyone check out her you-tube videos.) 

 

So that is my two cents.  You treat young people as full members, give them credit for their abilities and put them to meaningful work in the club and you will have them for a lifetime.  And one more thing.  Gender neutral.  Tell all of my fellow geezers that the girls do not work on refreshments.  Right?


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#8 JohnTMN

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 10:45 PM

So that is my two cents.

An excellent post! Thank you for sharing,,


Edited by JohnTMN, 28 August 2023 - 10:51 PM.

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#9 AstroVPK

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Posted 28 August 2023 - 11:18 PM

I think the 4.5" and 6" starter Dobs are the best thing to happen to the hobby. Large enough to show stuff through but small enough to be cheap. The one gripe that I have is the rotten red dot finders that these things come with. They are worse than useless - they are hobby killers. Thankfully they are easily replaced with better units, however Orion etc... are doing thanks a disservice by shipping the scopes with these units.

Ultimately, the real hobby killer is light pollution. These days, it's hard to get to good skies without having to drive a few hours. We need better ordinances that limit light pollution via motion sensors etc...!!
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#10 EmDrive2821

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 06:08 AM

However we define young, the entrance of newcomers, typically young or younger, helps breathe life into the hobby, avocation, career…  I find their excitement stimulating and contagious.

 

Gary


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#11 mikemarotta

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 09:26 AM

I agree that people in general need to be able to adjust the telescope for themselves.  We had a daytime outreach at our library viewing sunspots. We showed people how to use the telescopes.

 

Montage 1 copy.jpg

 

However, at the big city night time outreach, when I showed people how to focus the view, I heard twice that they had been warned not to touch the telescope.

 

I do understand that in general and with young children in partcular, there is the impulse to grab the eyepiece and bring it to your eye. But that is the responsibility of the docent to talk to your guests and explain things.

 

 

Totally agree with NAPP.  I would add a few things.

 

I deal with a lot of college age and younger folks and they want to actually do stuff.  They want to touch it and they want to operate it.  Go to many public outreach events and young people are told to not touch, be careful, and generally talked down to.  So they don't like it.  Who would?

 

At one outreach event I watched a young lady around 10-11 years old go from scope to scope only to be told, "we are just setting up".  So when she got to my scope I asked her if she wanted to help me set up.  She said she did not know how so I told her I would teach her.  And I walked her through setting up and aligning my 6" refractor and EQ-6 mount.  

Thanks, that's great going, dnrmilspec. 

 

Actually, you know, there is the same impulse the first time someone mounts a horse. They want to grab the pommel and have to learn to hold the reins with one hand.

 

The one gripe that I have is the rotten red dot finders that these things come with. They are worse than useless - they are hobby killers. 

The red dots work fine. It may just be a matter of local culture. Here in Texas, it is pretty easy to tell people that it works just like it does on a gun. I have used a couple of telescopes with Telrads on them. They are fine, too, but I never understood all the raving. It's just another finder. In fact, I bought two of these from Astronomics (just another display with dot, crosshairs, and target circle):

 

Astro-Tech Multiple Reticle.png

 

Thanks (and Clear Skies),

MIke M.


Edited by mikemarotta, 29 August 2023 - 09:37 AM.

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#12 bunyon

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 09:35 AM

Just to add to dnrmilspec's excellent post: Don't talk down to anyone. Don't dismiss them. 

 

Maybe you think "kids today" are disnterested, short attention span, phone addicts. If you let them know that, I guarantee you have lost them. No one likes to be insulted. Yes, a lot of kids today are like that. So are a lot of adults. So are a lot of old folks. So often I see older amateurs insult the people they're trying to recruit. It's nuts.

 

dnrmilspec's advice to let newcomers actually engage devices is spot on. People want to be involved. Phones take a lot of abuse but one reason they're so captivating is they aren't passive. You have to do stuff with them. Counter that with the TVs of many of our youth. 

 

Anyway, be respectful of them and engage them. You'll get burned occasionally. But without doing those two things, you have no hope.

 

 

Practically, I entered this hobby at age 12, 40 years ago. It was an "aging, dying hobby" then. The old goats in the hobby always think it's dying in my experience. I've come to think it's simply a hobby that demands enough time that young adults building a life don't have it. I know I was very active 12-17 and then less active 18-35. The folks who burn for the stars will come when they can.


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#13 largefather

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 09:57 AM

Just to add to dnrmilspec's excellent post: Don't talk down to anyone. Don't dismiss them. 

 

Maybe you think "kids today" are disnterested, short attention span, phone addicts. If you let them know that, I guarantee you have lost them. No one likes to be insulted. Yes, a lot of kids today are like that. So are a lot of adults. So are a lot of old folks. So often I see older amateurs insult the people they're trying to recruit. It's nuts.

 

dnrmilspec's advice to let newcomers actually engage devices is spot on. People want to be involved. Phones take a lot of abuse but one reason they're so captivating is they aren't passive. You have to do stuff with them. Counter that with the TVs of many of our youth. 

 

Anyway, be respectful of them and engage them. You'll get burned occasionally. But without doing those two things, you have no hope.

 

 

Practically, I entered this hobby at age 12, 40 years ago. It was an "aging, dying hobby" then. The old goats in the hobby always think it's dying in my experience. I've come to think it's simply a hobby that demands enough time that young adults building a life don't have it. I know I was very active 12-17 and then less active 18-35. The folks who burn for the stars will come when they can.

i agree but just to phrase it a different way, it's not the astronomy part that is keeping people away from astronomy. it's ability (either location, time, cost etc) or interest. if we assume that those with no interest cannot be persuaded to have interest then all you're really fighting is the hurdles to ability. 

 

part of that is making things available to try and not making them feel lesser or restricted. kids are smart generally and love to learn until that is stamped out of them. 

 

Ed Ting always talks about how his group puts 114mm tabletop dobs into the state library system. apparently they have quite a few out there now. Putting the equipment into peoples hands is magical. That is the kind of program that could be really successful for making new observers if you also included a well written info packet to go with it or alternatively some kind of dial a stargazer support line. 


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#14 Starman1

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 10:13 AM

When I have visitors to my scope in the field, I explain how to approach the eyepiece* and then how to focus.

Once they are noticing the object drifting across the field, I explain why that happens and how to steer the dob with a hand on the upper end of the scope.

At first, people may overshoot, but after reacquiring the target (easy with DSCs), I have them do it again and pretty soon I have a group of 2-6 people all of whom know how to steer the scope to follow the object.

so I can talk about the object and the astronomical significance of its type while they sit and watch.

 

*for glasses wearers, I just tell them to leave their glasses on and approach until they can see the entire field.

For non-wearers of glasses, I mention to approach the eyepiece slowly until they can see the edge of the field, then stop and don't get closer.

If I'm the only one in the group wearing glasses, I'll raise the eyecup to make it easier for non-wearers of glasses.

 

P.S. I haven't noticed any gender specificity in the interest in the view.  In fact, I've had as many groups of women look through the scope as men.

And some of the people with the most educated questions about astrophysics have been women.

 

What I am concerned with, though, is that that interest never seems to result in the person's entry into the hobby.


Edited by Starman1, 29 August 2023 - 10:16 AM.

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#15 bunyon

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 10:14 AM

I think interest can be addressed but much of it is out of our control. A beautiful event visible from cities would help. Show them Saturn. I've had the good fortune to twice take a bunch of college kids out under a dark desert sky. Over half of them had never seen the Milky Way. They had thought my hobby a little dumb, though they were too nice to say that. They told me afterwards that now they got it. 


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#16 TheChosen

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 10:26 AM

Several things actually:

 

1) Making YouTube videos (see my signature). It is simply how it is these days. I am used to reading books (43 years old) but whenever I am interested into something, first thing I do is simply watch a couple of videos to get me started and get how the whole thing looks like. I may go an read later for deeper understanding.

 

2) Sharing some Solar System imaging on my social networks

 

3) Spreading the message that you can enjoy amateur Astronomy at a pretty high level even with a budget telescope, eyepieces and other equipment from AliExpress. 


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#17 csrlice12

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 10:55 AM

If nothing else, they can use their phones to show you how to get your car started after you've removed all those fuses at the dark site


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#18 Dan Watt

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 11:35 AM

I'm currently 36 but I've been into this since my early 20's. Imaging and visual. For quite a while it seemed like I was the youngest person at the various dark sites around Southern California. That held true from my early 20's to my 30's. But during covid I noticed A LOT more younger people getting into the hobby. Mostly imaging but some visual and even some sketching. 

 

Now a lot of them are in the early tinkering phase of imaging where the setup needs constant attention all night. As they progress in skills, equipment and experience they will get to a point where once they setup and start their imaging run, the modern software in use now pretty much runs itself with minimal intervention. So they are gonna be bored all night. That's a good time to get into visual. And maybe motivate them to dim their **** laptop screens. 


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#19 star acres

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 01:33 PM

If anyone is going to get pancake syrup on my eyepiece, it's going to be an old geezer. Kids are focussed and used to piping down. I proposed and half- organized a class trip. Little kids are roudy on the street. When their favorite teacher clears her throat and says I want you to see this, all the sudden you can hear a pin drop. After her presentation, the roudy kicks back in.
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#20 MikiBee

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 01:51 PM

At a local outreach about 15 days ago I had at least 100 folks looking through my dual setup, 102 refractor and 127 SkyMax, Saturn 100% of the time, didn't even get a chance to move to another object. So many folks were just thrilled, who wouldn't be when seeing the ring planet.

 

Many young folks attended and I recognized some young repeat "offenders". I have to agree with the new generation attention span comment. I also think astronomy is a slow and complex hobby for the younger generations. They need to by a scope (which is not simple these days), accessories,  learn how to operate then take it outside for observing. Unless there is tremendous amount of passion for astronomy they just won't bother. It is much simpler to attend an outreach event whenever you feel like, someone will be there with their scope and you will have fun.

 

As always there are exceptions and some young kids are really into astronomy and I am trying my best to push them even further to love this beautiful hobby. 


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#21 Phil Cowell

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 02:06 PM

Hopefully your club isn’t infected by the old school “they have to do it like they did in the 60’s” mindset, If they are its dead already. Times have changed and electronics are a part of every day life. Sharing a moment with friends on social media is also part of every day life for the majority of the young. EAA (streamed) is a good thing and if streamed can bring in others who watched the stream of get them interested in the next event. Not everyone wants to show up in person so if you have a star party, stream it. If you do presentations or classes use something like Zoom to expand your attendees to virtual as well. It also provides access to those who can’t attend due to disabilities.

By mixing in person and virtual events you increase your member base. Leverage your member skills to offer classes in various topics. Just make sure you have dumped the old think. You have stated you’re looking for the young not trying to find more of the old guard. With being network attached your new members don’t even need to be local. It’s a global economy and a global catchment area for club members. CN is a prime example. If your club location is going to get a good view of next years eclipse for example, stream it. Let others around the world enjoy it.

 

Our club is aging and so is our hobby.

 

I am wondering what all of you are doing to attract and keep younger people engaged in our great hobby? We need them to come and join and step up.

 

Ideas?

 

James


Edited by Phil Cowell, 29 August 2023 - 02:13 PM.

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#22 star acres

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 03:02 PM

Astronomy is also a chance to get away from the computers, phones, Facebook, and streaming. Who am I to say that? When I move west, I'm bringing 42 reformatted Dell desktops for astronomy sciences.


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#23 3C286

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 03:36 PM

 Sometimes, a professaional family (couple) will buy a telescope with the intention that it be for the family.

That's me! Except...

 

I bought a telescope wanting to show cool things to the kids. Instead, I got completely hooked. The kids aren't interested in astronomy at all... 

 

You could try luring the parents into the club?


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#24 Michael Tomich

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 03:42 PM

Just suspend the rules that prohibit no white lights and driving among the telescopes and astronomers in the dark. Allow the young adults run amok as they seem to enjoy that. I've seen this tried with success. I've been told there needs to be a balance between attracting interest and enforcing rules. So I've been schooled.


Edited by Michael Tomich, 29 August 2023 - 03:51 PM.

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#25 Napp

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Posted 29 August 2023 - 03:59 PM

Just suspend the rules that prohibit no white lights and driving among the telescopes and astronomers in the dark. Allow the young adults run amok as they seem to enjoy that. I've seen this tried with success. I've been told there needs to be a balance between attracting interest and enforcing rules. So I've been schooled.

I have to disagree with having vehicles driving among the scopes.  Unfortunately, we have vehicles driving among the scopes at our major monthly outreach because we set up in a park parking lot.  The lot does not lend itself to redirecting the cars.  It’s disruptive to folks looking through the scopes and there is a certain degree of danger in the dark as we have to make sure kids are out of the way.  It would be much better to not have to deal with this but we are are stuck with it.


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