Amateur astronomers from local astronomy clubs are donating their knowledge, time and use of their telescopes to schools in their community in an effort introduce the wonders of Universe to young minds. In recognition of this commitment to public education, the Night Sky Network was formed to provide astronomy clubs with resources to help them expand their outreach capabilities. By providing free materials and support to astronomy organizations the Night Sky Network has aided local clubs in creating a positive impact in classrooms throughout the country.
The classroom opportunities for astronomy outreach range from elementary school classrooms to college level labs to teaching teachers themselves! Here are just a few examples of how Night Sky Network clubs are making a difference in the classroom:
Astronomers Teaching Students
Mr. Clark's Fifth Grade Class benefits from visits by astronomer Stephen Schiff of the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches in Florida. Dr. Schiff reported on the fifth graders' enthusiasm for the activities from the Night Sky Network's "Black Hole Survival" toolkit: "This group really enjoyed the discussion of black holes on the second day of the unit. They told me that the idea of gravity never made sense until they learned that space was curved. They really liked working with the black hole buckets."
Classroom outreach by astronomy clubs is certainly not limited to elementary schools as Shawn Laatsch of the Carolina Skies Astronomy Club talks of his experience using Night Sky Network materials with Pitt Community College astronomy students: "My community college students really enjoyed these activities at the telescope. One commented that this was the first time she really understood the distances we discussed in class as more than a bunch of numbers. All of the students seemed to enjoy logging the objects they were viewing. I'm looking forward to using the Universe activity in class once we begin our unit on galaxies."
Astronomers Teaching Teachers
Don Baker of the San Antonio Astronomical Association describes how they help prepare future teachers in helping to inspire their own students to explore astronomy: "Our club assists with an astronomy unit, and help give the student teachers ideas for teaching their future students"
The applications for astronomy education in the classroom are astronomical! Bring outer space to your classroom, contact a Night Sky Network member club in your area! Just click on the Club Directory.