On Thursday, April 27, the Active Astronomy Roadshow traveled to Francis T. Bresnahan Elementary School in Newburyport to participate in their STEM Expo. The Roadshow brought two teams, one leading a High Altitude Balloon activity and the other leading an activity on gravity and the Fabric of Space-Time.
The High Altitude Team, consisting of Danae, Tsogt, and Dr. Laycock, had students looking at what high altitude balloons are used for and how to engineer develop different mechanisms for different purposes. Students got the chance to use a remote control release mechanism to release a camera that was recording them. Afterwards, the students got to watch the videos they made and see how they looked from high up in the gym.
The Gravity Team, consisting of Tom, Alex, and Ruchit, explored the concept of gravity, orbits, and the bending of Space-Time. Students got the chance to look at how differing amounts of force alter orbits, how Space-Time is bent by massive objects, and about the scientist behind these ideas. Students rolled different size balls on a sheet of Lycra to try and orbit a rock and tried to figure out the different forces needed to get the best orbit.
We were so impressed with the questions that the students were asking and how engaged they were with all the different activities. We hope to be back again next year!
In preparation for a Star Party on February 2, Dr. Silas Laycock, Dr. Viktor Podolskiy, and I traveled to Robinson Middle School on Thursday, January 26, armed with two telescopes and two large mirrors. The purpose of the visit was to allow students to practice with astronomical technology that they would encounter at an observatory. We worked with Ms. Syzmanoski”s, Ms. Sanborn’s, and Ms. Howell’s 8th grade science classes going over the different celestial objects that students would be able to see in the Winter sky. After talking about Venus, the Pleiades, and Betelgeuse, we went around and showed students how a reflecting telescope, lens telescope, and light in general, through the use of mirrors, work.
Students got the chance to look through the telescopes, try focusing telescopes, and asking any questions they had about the technology.
We hope that the students are excited to look at the stars and we know we are excited to continue our partnership with Robinson Middle School!
The Active Astronomy Roadshow traveled to Cumnock Hall on North Campus to run a table at the Kennedy College of Sciences 2nd Annual Block Party! With a telescope and astronomy cards in hand, Silas, Andy, Sarah, and Tom set up activities for university students to play that would be used in our classroom activities. Students, faculty, and staff got to try their hand at ranking the planets, along with a few other everyday objects, by temperature, mass, gravity, and diameter with a glow in the dark star as a prize for players. Players used all kinds of methods to reason through the ordering of the objects and I personally learned a few new ways of thinking about how planets could be thought about. Participants also were able to point and focus our reflecting telescope at points around the hall to get a feel for the wonders of stargazing.The Block party was a great hit and we were able to spread the word about our local astronomy activities, the Schueller Observatory, LoCSST, and the HDSC all while having some fun. In the end, 11 individuals were interested in hearing more from us in the future and learning about how they can help out and 1 student even offered to help out with the previously stalled weather balloon project. Further, an astronomy club is now in the works and we hope that it is successful in its endeavors.
I hope to have some information about the outreach activities at local schools soon!
Today, Prof. Laycock, Andy, and myself ventured back to Bresnahan Elementary School in Newburyport to lead outreach activities in the classes of Mrs. Westgate and Mrs. Hoiseth. In addition to the three of us, recent UML grad Kate Oram took time out of her busy schedule to join us for our activities and to talk to the students of both classes about all the fascinating work she is doing in optical engineering. For the activities, in Mrs. Westgate’s class, we had the students create a scale model of the solar system. They had to pick out which balls represented which planet, order themselves based on which planet they were holding, and then space themselves out. Throughout we got the opportunity to discuss why it is important to make models in science and how the scientific method is present even in something like a scale activity. From there, we had students use a giant thermometer to figure out the temperature of the planets and how they compare to every day objects like ice and soup. With Mrs. Hoiseth’s class, we talked about magnetism. Students saw a demo with iron filings and magnets that showed the effects of magnetism on the filings. From there, students made compasses their own. The compasses were made out of cork and a pin that the students magnetized themselves. The cork was then floated in water to show how it could be used as a compass. To wrap up our activity on magnetism, students got the opportunity to look through a solar telescope to see the effects that a magnetic field can have. We would like to thank Mrs. Westgate and Mrs. Hoiseth for allowing us to lead our activities with their classes and Kate for coming with us to share her knowledge and expertise with the students. Pictures to come soon!
Until next time,
On March 10, Andy and I had the pleasure of assisting Mr. Johnny Gelsomini’s Astronomy Class with a telescope making activity. The activity had the students measure the focal length of each lens needed for the telescope, the objective lens and the eyepiece. From there the students were tasked with an engineering challenge where they worked in groups to make a telescope using two cardboard tubes of different sizes, a sheet of foam-like material, the two lenses, extra cardboard, caps for the cardboard tubes, scissors, and tape. While each group had the same basic shape for the telescope, they all had slightly different methods of securing the lenses in place. Some used extra cardboard and tape while others used the caps for the cardboard tubes and everything in between. Once students got the chance to look around with their telescopes, we talked about why the images seen were upside-down and how magnified the objects being seen were. We were so impressed with the problem-solving skills that the students were displaying while constructing their telescopes and the knowledge that they already had about telescopes and light. We would like to thank Mr. Gelsomini for allowing us to come in and his students for being amazing. We look are looking forward to helping out again soon!
Today, Prof. Silas Laycock, Andy, and I had the pleasure of travelling to Bresnahan Elementary School in Newburyport for an outreach activity with Mrs. Hoiseth’s 2nd grade classroom. Our morning with the class consisted of two main activities: making a scale model of our solar system and creating a thermometer with the temperatures of the planets. For the solar system, the students had to try and figure out what object was representing which planet and then order and space out themselves before learning the actual distances of the planets. The thermometer activity had students use their prior knowledge about everyday objects, such as soup and ice, and the solar system to order the planets by temperature on our giant thermometers. To demonstrate why Venus gets hotter than Mercury, we illustrated the greenhouse effect with a water bottle and alka-seltzer tablets under a heat lamp. During our few down moments (snack time), we even got the opportunity to talk about what it might smell like on other planets. We were so impressed with how smart the kids were and how much they had learned in about space in the hour and a half that we were there. We would like to thank the school and Mrs. Hoiseth for everything and are looking forward to helping in the future.
More updates to come,
In order to keep track of all of our outreach activities, we have created a wiki page with all of the different lessons that we have written. The wiki page can be accessed from the link provided below. Check back often as we will continue updating the activities! We are hoping to add in pictures, downloadable pdfs, and adding in more potential activities.
I hope that you have all enjoyed the start of the new year and the beginning of a new spring semester. Last semester was great for our astronomy outreach program. We worked closely with Robinson Middle School and with teachers Danielle Sherman, Kelly Sanborn, Cathryn Szymanoski, and Douglas Bishop to perform four astronomy activities with over 100 students. We created astronomy cards to help build student understanding of the relationships between celestial objects and how they compare to everyday items. We assisted classes in creating a physical scale model of the Solar System to help explain the usage of models in science and to illustrate the scale of the Solar System. Finally, we created cardboard tube telescopes, while providing an explanation of how they worked, with the students to use at the Star Party we threw, where students could go out one night and look at the stars and space using their own telescopes and high powered telescopes we provided. I would personally like to thank everyone who helped out to make our semester a success. Thank you Jun, Rigel, Sam, Andy, and Logan for assisting with the activities in the classroom, Prof. Silas Laycock for helping to get everything in motion and providing expertise throughout both in and out of the classroom. Prof. Viktor Podolskiy for assisting at our first outreach activity. Lynne for helping to order all of our supplies. Finally, Dan, thank you for everything you did in the classroom and in our group, enjoy your new school. You will be missed here.
In the new semester, we are striving to continue our efforts in local schools and in the community. We will continue to strengthen our partnership with Robinson Middle School and we hope to find new ways to assist in classroom now that their astronomy unit is over. We additionally will continue searching for more schools to assist with astronomy and physics education. We are hoping to continue hosting star parties and are looking forward to expanding our relationship with the North Shore Amateur Astronomy Club (NSAAC). I look forward to being able to write more posts in the future about everything we do this semester.