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First "Space Night" at my son's school

Outreach
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#1 Domdron

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Posted 15 March 2024 - 04:30 AM

Wednesday, my wife and I ran the first "Space Night" at my son's primary school in Kikuyu, Kenya. 30 families RSVPed, and I hoped to show first the Moon and then Jupiter before they set; then, for those stying longer, Orion Nebula. We had kept the event free because we wanted to make it as accessible as possible.
 
Before we started, my wife would do a little lesson in a classroom with a presentation about the telescope, how to use it, and a pre-recorded screencast using Stellarium to preview what we'd see. She also included a little quiz about planet sizes (Earth, Jupiter and Neptune) and distances from the sun, if we consider a model with the sun being of 1m diameter.
 
To show Jupiter without too much hassle, I had brought my tracking EQ mount, instead of the manual table-top that the 150p comes with. Additionally, I had set up 10x50 binos on a tripod for people to also view the Moon through it to compare, and also to show what one of the most affordable ways to get into the hobby looks like -- 10x50s and tripods are available locally quite easily, while most telescopes need to be imported, at usually significantly higher cost than in the West.
 
Later, once it got dark enough, we would use the binos to view e.g. the Pleiades, while others were looking through the scope at Jupiter.
 
So far the plan...
 
In the end, well more than 100 people turned out, because many families brought also all the siblings of the school's students. In this pic, only the first group is shown:
 
School "Space Night"
 
Despite having started early, while it was still dusk, we had to rush quite a bit to at least get everybody to see the Moon. We used a 16mm/82° eye piece for that.
 
The time-challenge was compounded by kids running across the field where we had connected several power extensions to the mount, often tripping over a cable and disconnecting the mount. Which meant reconnecting the cable, waiting for the mount's WiFI Dongle to come online again, reconnecting my phone, restarting tracking, possibly re-centering the Moon. This process to maybe 0.5-1 minute each time, and it happened probably 20 times or so.
 
Once we were through with that at around 8pm, most people had already left (small kids on a weekday...)
 
However, about 10-15 families still got some views of Jupiter, having added a 3x Barlow to the 16mm, and some people could still view the Pleiades through the binos.
 
And I have to say, despite all the stress caused by the big numbers and the frequent disconnects, the experience was exhilarating! Especially hearing some kids, being so amazed to see the Moon so clearly, with craters and mountains, shouting out avidly.
 
Some take-aways for next time:
  • The lesson was very well-received, especially the quiz whose answers were very surprising to most.
  • We should limit the number of people and requiring families to RSVP for all members.
  • Ensure beforehand that a long-enough single power extension is provided and is properly secured!
  • Also instead of inviting the whole school, probably do it by class, so that the "main attendees", the school kids, are of similar age and knowledge, and adjust the lesson and viewed objects accordingly.
  • Possibly work with others to bring more telescopes.
  • I had brought some led string lights to delimit the telescope area which would be off-limits except for the ones currently viewing. Next time bring red and dimmable ones for later, should we actually manage to look at DSOs.
 

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#2 mdowns

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Posted 15 March 2024 - 09:27 AM

Bravo,well done!


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#3 Domdron

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Posted 15 March 2024 - 09:51 AM

Bravo,well done!


Thank you ☺️

#4 Nankins

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Posted 15 March 2024 - 09:09 PM

Sounds like you had a lot of fun!  Kids can be both fun and hard to work with.


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#5 Domdron

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Posted 15 March 2024 - 11:21 PM

Sounds like you had a lot of fun!  Kids can be both fun and hard to work with.

100% on both points!


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#6 astrohamp

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Posted 16 March 2024 - 02:09 PM

Your preparation, presentations, and goals were excellent, commendable, and far reaching.  I am happy to read about enthusiastic and wowed participants. Thanks for the report.

 

Limiting attendance is a tough decision and you are among many who know the difficulties and disappointments this implies.

 

My last outreach had one youngling crawl though my cable management for viewing access despite my barriers.  Red Led lights to highlight instruments/table legs still wasn't enough, or bright enough.

 

Perhaps you can use the white light string to highlight the power cord, and a red one to 'delimit the scope area". 

 

If I may suggest a tighter limit circle. This allows those in the queue closest to being next up for observing to view and overhear what is going on at the telescope.  Your voice repetition of at scope 'learning' is useful and a trained, memorized, respectful teaching monologue spoken to each observer gives them their special attention.  I find being seated at eye level with the new observer and eyepiece height chosen for their height a good approach.  This does however put taller folks less at ease, having to stoop or kneel. Else I use a two step platform stool with high grab hoop.

 

Great effort and good show.  More hosts and scopes can be a good thing.


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#7 Domdron

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Posted 18 March 2024 - 01:12 AM

 

 

Your preparation, presentations, and goals were excellent, commendable, and far reaching.  I am happy to read about enthusiastic and wowed participants. Thanks for the report.

 

Limiting attendance is a tough decision and you are among many who know the difficulties and disappointments this implies.

 

My last outreach had one youngling crawl though my cable management for viewing access despite my barriers.  Red Led lights to highlight instruments/table legs still wasn't enough, or bright enough.

 

Perhaps you can use the white light string to highlight the power cord, and a red one to 'delimit the scope area". 

 

If I may suggest a tighter limit circle. This allows those in the queue closest to being next up for observing to view and overhear what is going on at the telescope.  Your voice repetition of at scope 'learning' is useful and a trained, memorized, respectful teaching monologue spoken to each observer gives them their special attention.  I find being seated at eye level with the new observer and eyepiece height chosen for their height a good approach.  This does however put taller folks less at ease, having to stoop or kneel. Else I use a two step platform stool with high grab hoop.

 

Great effort and good show.  More hosts and scopes can be a good thing.

Thank you for the suggestions, they're well taken. Actually we don't think of really limiting attendance, but spreading it over time; i.e. instead of having the whole primary school come at one night, spreading it out over several. Probably divided by grades, ie.e. grade 1, then 2, etc.

 

That would also allow to make the presentation and viewed objects more specifically adapted for the respective age.

 

We could also involve one of the few local astronomy orgs to bring another telescope; however that would come at a cost, and we wouldn't be able to keep it free.

 

OTOH, if we do the splitting by classes, and so multiply our time and effort running this, I might also not want to keep it free. Or maybe I could put a tipping jar and make contributions voluntary. 

 

Anyway, we'll figure something out.



#8 Domdron

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Posted 18 March 2024 - 01:18 AM

I had purposefully turned the scope so that the eye piece is easily reachable by the smaller kids by the way. It meant the taller ones and adults had to bend, but my tube rings aren't (yet) suited for adjusting very often -- just had them made locally, the locking mechanism, just a bolt and nut, can surely be improved.



#9 Mike G.

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Posted 18 March 2024 - 07:54 AM

Great Job!  I do outreach frequently with our club and kids will definitely trip over cords, disconnect the electronics and pull scopes out of alignment (besides the ones that despite being told not to touch the scope, walk up and immediately grab the EP and try to move it to their eye).  For these reasons, I use batteries to power scopes and keep cords attached to tripod legs so they are not able to be tripped over.  Also, for scopes with drives, I leave the clutches a bit loose so someone grabbing it will move the scope, but not the mount.  Short stepladders with a top rail for a handhold work better than just a step stool - and an adult present to help the youngster to step up and attach his hands to the handrail instead of the scope. I don't think there is any known solution to keep kids from running around, we see that year after year. But it is always great fun to hear the response to someone seeing the Moon, Saturn or Jupiter for the first time.  I hope you continue to enjoy the outreach events!


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#10 Domdron

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Posted 18 March 2024 - 09:07 AM

Great Job! I do outreach frequently with our club and kids will definitely trip over cords, disconnect the electronics and pull scopes out of alignment (besides the ones that despite being told not to touch the scope, walk up and immediately grab the EP and try to move it to their eye). For these reasons, I use batteries to power scopes and keep cords attached to tripod legs so they are not able to be tripped over. Also, for scopes with drives, I leave the clutches a bit loose so someone grabbing it will move the scope, but not the mount. Short stepladders with a top rail for a handhold work better than just a step stool - and an adult present to help the youngster to step up and attach his hands to the handrail instead of the scope. I don't think there is any known solution to keep kids from running around, we see that year after year. But it is always great fun to hear the response to someone seeing the Moon, Saturn or Jupiter for the first time. I hope you continue to enjoy the outreach events!


No question that kids will keep running around 😁The idea is to make the setup a bit more robust, some of the connections came apart really easily.


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