Tonight at my school, I was able to hold despite the full moon, my first star party of the year for my students in what we call our Advance Astronomy Learners. First task was to teach them how to mount and align a finder scope on a XT6 and then how to swap it with a EZ Deluxe Finder. The students as would be expected preferred using the EZ Deluxe Finder with its red dot. We began by them examining the moon and looking at Tycho right at sun down before the moon got too bright. Next, they were able to bag Jupiter and Alberio on their own using the EX Deluxe Finder. Not bad for my 12 year olds. Examining Jupiter they saw the four Galile0 moons and some of the bands on Jupiter. Students were using a 25mm, 17mm and 10mm Orion Stratus Plossl. Views were good despite the moon light. They enjoyed looking at the varied colors of Alberio.
While the younger students were doing this, my middle school students were busy as well. Using their XT6 scopes they found NGC 457 the ET Cluster and M31 and 32. It was like a hive of bees tonight and it was just a matter of showing how to use the tools, and letting them go. I had warned them to dress warm and suggested what to wear, but being young and thinking they would be all right, they didn't come prepared. Luckily I had some gloves and that helped as I shared them and mothers, four who came, had brought jackets. None had hats though and I again admonished them to wear some type of hat.
So tonight in about 1 hour my new students learned and ran a XT6 and bagged Jupiter and Alberio. My middle school students bagged NGC 457 and M31 and 32. I was quite proud of them and very happy to see them make the progress they did tonight. Every time I hold one of these (once a month) it convinces me of one error that most clubs make regarding kids. We tend to show off for kids, and often at a public star party that has to be the way it is. However, I feel we need to do better. We need to not just show, but instruct and let the public, especially youth, use equipment. Clubs can set up the loaner scopes they have at a star party and have an online list where the public can sign up to learn how to use a scope at the party on a first come first serve basis. Perhaps club membership might grow, etc.
So, for me it comes down to trusting a kid, show them what to do and then observe them doing what they've been taught and be available to support them. The end result is that the youth of today learn how to star gaze and more importantly, we may just bag one or two in the future when they become adults to take up the hobby or gain an interest in science and pursue a career in that field. That is something we all need. Please take the time to show the wonders of this marvelous hobby to the youth of today. I can honestly say that though I am tired tonight, what has been a very difficult two weeks for personal reasons took a backseat to watching these kids shine, follow procedures and gain confidence using equipment just warms one soul in the midst of thirty degree weather dipping into the high twenties. Clear skies to you and to the young astronomers out there.