Taking the Universe to the Classroom
Richard Dale Owens of Washington's Island County Astronomical Society talked about black holes and the fabric of space-time at South Whidbey Primary School's Science Day (Credit: Andy Nielsen)

For some members of astronomy clubs, the classroom is a natural extension of the work they do educating the public at star parties. Certain grades have space science requirements and it is great to have an expert to help answer questions. Our members go above and beyond with fun activities and challenges for the students. From kindergarten to high school and beyond, here are some example of how the universe comes alive in classrooms around the country, thanks to these dedicated Night Sky Network members.

In Florida, Stephen M. Schiff from the Astronomical Society of the Palm Beaches talks about his experience in a 5th grade classroom: "Students learned about scale models and their uses. We discussed light years and the vast distances in the galaxy. Students came away from the activity with a knowledge of just how small the solar system is when dealing with galactic measurements."

Ken Coates of the Mount Diablo Astronomical Society in California helped a 4th grade class understand the recent Mercury transit: "It proved very effective to draw a circle representing the sun in chalk on the playground and to show how big the Earth was in comparison by using a penny and how big Mercury was in comparison using a small button. I also used chalk to indicate where Mercury was as well as a large sunspot. After this, the children looked through the solar telescope. I think it helped them quite a bit to see Mercury and the sunspot."

The Lima Astronomical Society in Ohio used a favorite Night Sky Network ToolKit demonstration. Joanne Antibus talks about her experience presenting to a local high school: "The students appreciated being able to actually see (recreate) the phases of the moon and the eclipse of the Sun and moon. They used spheres to represent the Moon and Earth, attached sticks to the spheres, and rulers to hold spheres the correct distance apart."

James M. Addison from Texas's Lipan Astronomy and Space Society (LASS) used the same activity in elementary school: "The kids had been studying astronomy and particularly Dwarf planet Pluto as well as the upcoming Mercury transit. Using the kit items provided I was able to demonstrate both lunar and solar eclipses. For this level, I think these props were excellent."

Understand that members cannot come to every classroom in America, but they may be able to help teachers in other ways. For kid-friendly events, star parties, and more get in touch with your local astronomy club.