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First grade outreach

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#1 hboswell

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 05:51 AM

I was contacted by a local Den Leader for a group of about 15 1st grade Cub Scouts about helping with one of their "Adventures".  Here's the info she gave me:

 

"We have an adventure called "Sky is the Limit" where Scouts are required to the do the following:

    -With your den or with your parent, guardian, or caring adult, go outside to observe the night sky.  Talk about objects you see or might see.
    -Look at a distant object through a telescope or binoculars.  Show how to focus the device you chose.
    -Find out about 2 astronauts who were Scouts when they were younger.  Share what you learned with your den.
    -Observe in the sky or select from a book, chart, computer, or electronic device 2 constellations that are easy to see in the night sky.  With your parent, guardian, or other caring adult, find out the names of the stars that make up the constellation and how the constellation got its name.  Share what you found with your den."

 

I don't remember doing anything for kids quite that young, so I'm hoping some of you who might have done this will chime in with advice, about how to describe what's in the sky, what they're seeing, and how to look through the telescope. 

 

Thanks,

Harry



#2 maroubra_boy

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 07:10 AM

I have done outreach with kiddies as young as four and five years old.  Can be a challenge, but being the scouts there is a certain ease to them being able to follow instructions and understand what is the task at hand.  I have developed a way of helping kids look into an eyepiece.  As it is the first time most of them will have the experience of looking through any type of scope, it can be a tricky thing as it isn't all that intuitive.

 

So, with the child close to the eyepiece & using a red light to illuminate it, I tell them quietly to "look into the little window" as I point out the eye lens.

 

This seems to do the trick in getting the kids to look square on into the eyepiece!

 

Focusing is a little more tricky.  But it should be instructed as no two sets of eyes will focus the same.  Ask them if the image is a little blurry.  If it is then show them where the focus knob is and how to gently tweak it, and them have them look back into the eyepiece as YOU first turn the focus knob so that they can see how the image changes.  Then let them have a go at it.  Some kids will have no trouble, others will struggle with the concept.  But being a small group, even one on one, and the nature of scouts, I would think they would be a bit more adventurous and have a go at focusing the scope for themselves.

 

Just make certain that you make it clear that they need to be gentle with the scope but at the same time assure them that they won't break it if they are gentle and not grab at the scope or eyepiece.

 

If they are a little short to reach the eyepiece, DO NOT lift the child to the eyepiece.  Instead, have a suitable step ladder with a long, tall hand rail that they can hold on to instead of the scope.  The pic below shows the type of step ladder I use and recommend for such an exercise.  It has that long, tall hand rail and all the steps are nice a deep, not narrow.

 

As for what to look for, the Moon is the obvious candidate.  And right now also Saturn.  The Moon will be easier because it doesn't need high magnification to see the craters.  You can ask them what it is that they can see on the Moon, what markings.  Have a simple map of the Moon available too and see if they can identify any of the markings on the map with what they see through the eyepiece.  Saturn is a little more tricky as it needs a bit more magnification, and a tracking scope can be beneficial as Saturn will then to zip through the field of view rather quickly.

 

Another object to chase down is an nice bright open cluster.  If it happens to have a nice red star within it then you can say something like "tell me if you can spot the red ruby among the sparkling white diamonds?".  I say this when I put the Jewel Box cluster in the eyepiece here in Australia - I am not all that familiar with northern sky open clusters so I must resort to your knowledge of suitable open clusters.

 

A nice big globular cluster or nebula is another treat.  The nebula you can say that it is where stars are being born.  The stars of an open cluster are all brothers and sisters born out of the same gas cloud/nebula.  But the Moon and Saturn would be the main fair.

 

A planisphere is probably the best tool for finding constellations, mostly because they tend to have fewer stars noted.  You can try an app too like Sky Safari.  Trial and error here though as to what they will find easiest to use.  With an app, I would suggest keeping the on-screen display as simple as possible to reduce confusion.  The neat advantage of an app is it can show what the constellation "looks like" in the graphic of the actual item the constellation represents.

 

You can tell them that the constellations have different stories behind them, that some constellations are very, very old, some of the ones we use today were also used by the Ancient Egyptians and the Babylonians.  Others are very new such as Telescopium and Microscopium.  And that different indigenous cultures have different constellations from the same stars and different stories behind them.  As you are in the USA, look up some Indigenous constellations from your part of the world.  Here in Australia we have many such narratives from the many different first nations people.

 

When you are showing the sky naked eye, ask them if they can see stars with different colour, well the red ones here.  Ask them what they think the red colour could mean and then mention what the red is indicating about the said red stars.

 

If your sky is dark enough, maybe seek out the brighter naked eye DSO's and them pull them up in the scope.

 

You can also mention how every single individual star that we see is wholly within our home galaxy of the Milky Way, a beautiful big spiral galaxy.  And how galaxies can be big and small and that our home galaxy is a really big one.  Not the biggest, but still a really big one.  Again, if your sky is dark enough and the time of year suitable, you can show them the band of the Milky Way stretching across the night sky.

 

Oh, the International Space Station is another to chase down.  Some apps can show it too.  And you can also do a little satellite spotting too in the early evening.

 

https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

 

These are just a few things to show and tell from some of the things I have shown little kids in the night sky over the years.

 

Alex.

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#3 hboswell

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 08:10 AM

Thanks, this is really helpful!  I've got a stepladder similar to that - I should mention that I'm 6'5" tall, so finding a scope placement that is easy for them to use but high enough that I don't have to lay on the ground is important!

 

Harry



#4 Alrakis

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 08:51 AM

One thing to note about the moon is that it is easy to tell if someone is looking at the eyepiece correctly with the moon. You can actually see the light of the moon illuminate the eye and if the illumination falls on the pupil they are looking at the moon. This makes it easy as a first step to teaching them how to use an eyepiece.

 

Chris 


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#5 lee14

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 08:53 AM

Maroubra covered your issue thoroughly, and I would only add that it is preferable to ask "what do you see" as opposed to "do you see...". That way you get a much better idea if they're actually seeing what they should, rather than what they expect you think they should. I love the smaller kids, they're so refreshing, as are their parents who've never looked through a scope before.

 

As for binoculars, the use of a parallelogram-type mount allows easy adjustment in height, without losing the target.

 

Another attention getter was a hand sized iron meteorite the kids and parents could pass around. Literally making the astronomical experience hands-on...

 

Lee


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#6 maroubra_boy

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 07:20 PM

One thing to note about the moon is that it is easy to tell if someone is looking at the eyepiece correctly with the moon. You can actually see the light of the moon illuminate the eye and if the illumination falls on the pupil they are looking at the moon. This makes it easy as a first step to teaching them how to use an eyepiece.

Chris


YES!

I do this too!

Not just with the Moon but also Jupiter & Saturn as these are sufficiently bright enough.

This is a really good tool to have up your sleeve in teaching ANYONE with no scope experience, particularly if they are struggling, on how to look into a scope. Little kids in particular benefit from this.

Just ask the parent first about handling their child & your reason for this. I constantly being this aspect up, but it is really important because teachers do not touch their students unless for very specific reasons, and you are not the child's teacher. It is really important that you talk to parents first as it is a very important information & trust thing. NEVER assume you have any form of permission here. You need to cover yourself & respect the organisation you are doing this with, school, Scout group, astro club, whatever.

#7 maroubra_boy

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 07:29 PM

While on the topic of kids in the broader sense, you should also be mindful of whatever child protection legislation that is in place where you live/are.

Here in Australia, any person who comes in contact with children because of work or care, in a professional or volunteer way, must undergo a Working With Children Check. Only with the clearance from the Police Force will you be allowed to do anything with children, such as in a school or scout group.

Of course I am only familiar with the legislation surrounding where I live in Australia. But regardless you should familiarise yourself with your local legislation. If you have any doubts or questions around this, ask the school teacher or people in charge of the organisation you are engaged with.

With my own astro club, if a member wants to do outreach with children, they MUST have the Working With Children Check & provide the number issued by the police which will keep on file & hand over to the school or whomever of the members who are participating in the event.

Child protection is no joke or flippant thing.

Alex.

#8 astrohamp

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Posted 30 October 2023 - 08:59 PM

If you choose to view the moon and there is a possibility of another dim object, use stacked polarizers or a strong neutral density filter.  Dimming the moon will allow future viewing without the total loss of dark adaption remembering youngling eyes are keen, sensitive, and usually untrained.   Set up one eyepiece with 'moon filter' and a second for the dim object.

 

The hoop stool I have used has only two steps although the top platform is larger then a square foot.  It may be that the eyepiece can be located inside the hoop although the natural grab handle works for nearly any orientation.

 

I have lately been using a low profile tripod for the OTA which naturally puts the eyepiece low.  I'm on my knees, at eye level with the youngsters.  Else I try to sit on a stool or case.  Parents and adult participants have to bow to the view if so desired. 

 

There is also a make your own planisphere project that could be done before hand.  One example here.  Then used during the event to help locate and identify constellations.

Some red cellophane (and elastics/tape) over flashlights could be brought for navigation of the sky, planisphere, and the inevitable 'laser' tag that no doubt will happen.

 

Hoping it works out.




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