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School outreach with young kids

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#26 Freezout


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Posted 07 January 2024 - 11:25 PM

Thanks, I use them also for observing, i never thought to use them like this! There will be light around where I will observe so I think (unfortunately) it won’t be needed. I keep the idea for dark sites outreach

#27 Freezout


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Posted 19 January 2024 - 03:43 AM

So it happened yesterday, my first school outreach. The 3 previous sessions had been cancelled due to the bad weather. We had yesterday a sky that was almost free of clouds, cold but calm.

There were 10 kids with 10 parents, plus my own little boy and the teacher. Several ages, I would say from 5 to 9 years old. Installation went all OK, we were in the yard of the school with a very good view over the whole East-South-West sky.

To be in a school gave all the comfort of having power supply for the RA motor, a big table where I could put the equipment at easy reach, and a step stool.

I had to install the mount before Polaris became visible, so it was quite rough but we didn't need to re-align often during viewing the same object. I'm VERY happy I got back an equatorial mount and installed a RA motor for this event, I prefer not to imagine how tedious it would have been with my usual altaz mount.


I had not been preparing any small talk but it came naturally during the session, I gave just basic information about what was the target. I know from work that managing expectations is half of the work, so first thing was a big disclaimer "these are not Hubble pictures, NASA didn't gave me 10 billions. What you will see is a tiny Saturn".

Then the part to excite them "however you will see the rings of this giant planet that is 10 times bigger than our planet" and here people start OHHH AHHHH we will see the rings... 


I know there are several religions about you can touch or don't touch the telescope, I kept it at don't touch, not by fear of damage but due to vibrations. We're at 140x or 200x with the Mak, and with kids: some poor kids (the youngest ones) didn't manage to see the picture, despite all the best advices on eye placement I could give. The oldest ones had no problem and are the most enthusiast of course.

All the kids behaved properly.

The parents asked to look also and some were clearly into the topic. Kids asked a lot of questions. One of them had a small telescope at home and asked me some advice.

I got the how much does it cost? from a girl and I answered that my telescope was an investment, so quite expensive, but still affordable, and that the most important was that you can get a correct telescope for a couple of hundreds euros, or use binoculars. That had an effect on some people present, they imagine you have to spend way more.


After Saturn we looked at the Moon, ideally placed, and Jupiter. 

Dew on the eyepiece was a real problem. People who are not used to eye placement will easily breathe on the eyepiece, it's cold, so we got dew early after the Saturn "round". I have "only" 3 eyepieces and even trying to manage the warmth of the eyepieces (in pocket, always closed when not used, etc), I had to swap them a couple of times. An eyepiece dew heater might be the next "outreach" investment.


The official end hour of the evening came and these kids had to go to bed, but some people were motivated to stay so I showed them the Orion nebula, unfortunately quite degraded due to the light pollution at the place. At that level it's more adults with interest in astronomy who enjoyed it. For kids a nice double star with contrast will be on the program the next time...

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#28 astrohamp


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Posted 19 January 2024 - 10:53 AM

Happy to read all finally went well for you and the group and thanks for the follow up report. 


Certainly managing the equipment is a task especially with the observer height differences you were dealing with.


I wish I could help with youngling orientation to the eyepiece but I have not found a way myself.  Highlighting the EP with a red flashlight and watching the youngsters face for object projection (if only on bright objects) are the two that come to mind.


Next time should be a treat.

#29 fizicksteacher



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Posted 15 April 2024 - 11:54 PM

One thing that can be wonderful to wet people's appetite is a couple of pairs of binoculars if you can get them. I also find having  a telescope that people can touch is always a real benefit.  It doesn't have to be a great scope, just something people can "try".  Also I found having a telescope that people are "allowed" to take their cell phone out and take a picture through is a big help with keeping the line moving on the "good" scope. I think the best rule of thumb is if your equipment is so delicate that it can't survive an accidental bump then don't take it to an outreach at an elementary school, I have never had a telescope knocked over or broken, but I have had a few very quick saves.  A picture with the constellations on it describing what and and where you are going to be looking is also super helpful to help folks to get oriented. Many of whom can probably only find the big dipper. Even that little bit is a great start, since you can show them how to beginning star hop using the big dipper as a guide.  Let the teachers help, just make sure they have clear instructions on what you want them to do.  Telling them how to tell the kids stuff about the stars really is a big help as well, as the students naturally look to them anyway and teachers are the most enthusiastic volunteers if they know what you want. A laser pointer to point out a constellation or two and a story about the constellation can also add a lot. Another thing if it lines up with your event is an iss/ hubble fly over.


I didn't think I could love the stars more than I did, until I started sharing them with others.

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