Scouting Out the Night Skies
Several Flint River Astronomy Club (GA) members have been heard to say they could work for s'mores anytime! (Photo Credit: Dawn Knight)

Community groups are one of the many ways that astronomy clubs reach out to share their knowledge and fascination with the night skies. In particular, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops appreciate learning new observing skills and sometimes earning badges in the process. Here are some of the ways Night Sky Network clubs have broadened the horizons of many motivated children.

From the Westminster Astronomical Society, Inc. in MD, David Gede demonstrated a Solar System model and then, "showed the Scouts how to find Polaris and figure out which way west, east, and south was once you found the star. We gave away some prizes before going outside to look through the telescopes. I started with Polaris showing them it was actually a double star and then went to the Orion nebula. The Scouts ran back and forth between scopes (I think it was more to keep warm than anything else)."

Even with the very young Scouts, Jim Morris of the Sioux Empire Astronomy Club (SD) made a lasting impression this winter: "These were 2nd graders and they had some very good questions about finding exoplanets and possible life there and what it might be like. We also did the requirements for the astronomy belt loop. There were 10 kids and their dads at the meeting and the dads seemed to enjoy it as much as the kids. Many of the dads had questions about beginner telescopes and so on for me after the meeting."

Jim Fitzl of Chippewa Valley Astronomical Society in Fall Creek, WI got many planet questions after showing a Night Sky Network presentation: "I used the Cassini/Huygens mission DVD from the Shadows and Silhouettes Toolkit. This program provoked many questions from the Scouts concerning the origin and makeup of the rings of Saturn. This resulted in the discussion expanding to questions covering the rest of the Solar System, planet definition, and what happened to Pluto's status. This part of the Toolkit contributed greatly to a very productive program for these Scouts."

Billy Chapman of the Las Vegas Astronomical Society showed some lucky Scouts about telescopes, constellations and stellar lifecycles. "This group of Cub Scout Stars was participating in their monthly theme activity, to study the basics of astronomy and instruments. They learned about the basic components of three telescope designs, about safe viewing of the Sun, and they participated in viewing various bright stars associated with several constellations. They also looked through a 10' Dobsonian reflector scope to 'witness' stars being born in the Great Orion Nebula."