Figuring out our place in the universe is all about understanding how we’re all connected – to each other, our planet, and our place in the Cosmos. The more we learn, the more questions we discover. It’s a big idea to digest, and can be both overwhelming and confusing. Especially to kids.
Thankfully, once you get them outside and have them view the night sky through a telescope, that confusion turns into curiosity that can spark a lifetime of learning.
We’d like to make that possible for hundreds of kids.
Here at Carthage College Institute of Astronomy, we’ve found that the combination of outdoor activities and astronomy is a great gateway for engaging kids in the sciences - especially high school students. Nature-based activities are part of the culture in New England where we operate a great astronomy and nature education program with the Appalachian Mountain Club. Combining that familiarity with workshops that allow participants to work one-on-one with a trained mentor helps ease them into a subject (astronomy) they may not know much about, and gives them a comfortable, safe space in which to explore the big questions of the universe.
We started our astronomy and nature education outreach program with the Appalachian Mountain Club in 2012 and were able to connect more than 3,000 people with hands-on astronomy learning. We had over 4,000 the next year, and have reached nearly 6000 this year. Our goal is to reach – and sustain engagement with – 10,000 participants each year.
In order to do that, we need your help. We want to reach more kids, train more volunteers and staff members to meet demand, and expand our equipment in order to facilitate more workshops… and, in particular, a portable planetarium program (it’s less rough on the kids than having them stay up ‘til 11 pm to observe the sky in the summer!). Kids are our future – and giving them real, hands-on experience with the greater Universe around them will hopefully make them better future citizens of our little blue planet.
At the Carthage College Institute of Astronomy, our passion is connecting people to the great wonders of the universe. To us, the universe isn’t an abstract, far away concept: it’s the birth of all of our planet’s resources. We believe Carl Sagan put it best when he said “we are all made of star stuff,” and it is our mission to help as many people as we can grasp the wonder and magnitude of that statement.
To our immense joy, we’ve received plenty of affirmation that people are interested in that mission, too. We’ve partnered with both the Appalachian Mountain Club and Rock Point High School in Burlington, Vermont to connect with students and teachers. To date, our programs have trained over 100 AMC crew members, several of whom have gone on to pursue astronomy education in their careers. We’re grateful for both partners, and have been able to share materials, equipment, and even staff among us. We’d like to do everything we can to continue fostering that partnership and nurturing our growing community of outdoor astronomy enthusiasts – including bringing on more high school and college students as trained volunteers.
The best part of these programs have been hearing from numerous students who were so inspired by it that they went on to study physics, astronomy, and other sciences after experiencing our program.
We want to reach more kids, especially those in inner-city schools and other places where engagement with the natural environment is difficult. Getting our student interns out there with tools to engage kids with the sky is an important part of doing so – and the additional equipment we need to do that – including a portable dome for planetarium projection and more telescopes to show kids the wonders of the Sun – are key to accomplishing this. These tools require additional resources, and we hope you’ll help.
We’re trying to get more kids into the outdoors to learn about astronomy. Here’s how you can help:
Training. In order to accommodate 10,000 students, we’ll need to bring on more trained volunteers – both staff and interns. Both are recruited by teachers and faculty from our partner institutions, and are eligible if they have had astronomy education and training as well as astronomy research experience. We also conduct regular training workshops for permanent and seasonal staff members as refresher courses.
Outreach. We’re fortunate to have word of mouth driving interest in our programs, but in order to reach all of the kids we want to, we’ll need to diversify. We’ll need to do additional outreach to reach more schools, adult education centers, and more rural communities. We are also seeing great interest from teachers who work with disadvantaged and special needs students, and would like to bring on additional staff with the training to accommodate them.
Workshops. Our ability to engage students in the wonders of the universe only goes as far as our programs. We have installed telescopes at all of the AMC high mountain huts, but we would like to install several more – as well as train additional staff, so as many students have access as possible.
This campaign is Flexible, meaning that the project leader will receive whatever donations are collected at the end of the campaign whether or not it reaches its goal.
Thank-you from Project Leader Douglas Arion
Digital photographs taken by our astronomy research students using telescopes at Kitt Peak National Observatory and Steward Observatory
Your name is listed on the program website as a project supporter
Prints of astronomical photographs will be mailed to you
A personal astronomy presentation by me for the individual or a group, either in person or through Skype.
Expand the astronomy and nature education outreach programs at the Carthage College Institute of Astronomy and Appalachian Mountain Club.