SOHO Outreach Spotlight

This is the first of a series of overviews of people and programs that provide outreach experiences to schools or the public at large. We hope you will enjoy learning about the variety of activities and programs!

Chabot Space & Science Center - Got Sun!

When it comes to presenting the Sun, Chabot Space & Science Center (in Oakland, Ca.) is one of the most active science centers around for engaging the public, students and teachers in a whole lot of imaginative ways. Part of their high level of interest stems from their partnership with the Solar B sun-study mission, due to launch in September 2006.

Their web site is filled with lots of great activities (many they've developed themselves) and information about the Sun. But the real grabber, what sets them apart from almost everywhere else, is the variety of their extensive programs about the Sun. For starters, they support Sun-Earth Day every year with many activities. They had over 800 visitors for Sun-Earth Day in 2003 when the aurora was the theme. The chalk drawings of aurora created by the kids were fabulous.

For the winter solstice in 2004, they ran cultural and scientific themed activities all day throughout the Center. An example of one hands-on activity: they gave kids of a wide range of ages a half-pound of modeling clay, a square of cardboard, clay shaping tools, and numerous examples to construct their own miniature ancient solar observatories. Then they lit each one with a sunlamp to demonstrate the effects of the Sun.

Fun in the Sun is a five-day camp for kids of grades 4-6. Each day's activities are around a Sun, Sun-Earth Connection, or Satellite Engineering theme. Campers learn about the Sun, its anatomy, how it works, and safe ways to observe it. Another day puts the Sun in the context of the Solar System and gets campers out on the park trails around Chabot to engage in a Solar System scale hike and to bring the natural, Sun-powered ecosystems of the Earth into personal focus. (They are astonished at how far they have to walk between the scaled positions of the planets' orbits.)

"Sun-Earth Connection Day" includes the construction of sundials, and a nature hike and activity for identifying and linking objects and processes in the natural environment to the flow of solar energy through the Earth system.

"Culture and Art" day explores how some cultures of the past regarded the Sun in their stories, art, and traditions. Wrapping up the week, brings campers to modern technological exploration of the Sun, combining solar imagery from satellite observatories with an engineering project. And don't forget teacher workshops.

Touch the Sun is an annual three-day workshop for science teachers of grades 8-12 (and adaptable for grades 5-7). The workshop includes an overview of modern solar observation and physics, current solar educational resources available on the Internet and other sources, and a resource kit of NASA and other educational products and all the supplies necessary to run the activities in class. The main activities involve building simple instruments from inexpensive materials, observing the Sun or other light sources with them, and finally analyzing the data collected to achieve a meaningful result. One of the most common reactions from attendees is surprise at the physical nature of the Sun that we are learning about through modern solar observations.

You can get more details here.

Chabot offers almost daily viewing of the Sun through sunspotters and H-Alpha scopes, show current solar images from SOHO in a kiosk, run a DVD about the Sun on a large plasma screen, and offer a new school class focused on the Sun that teachers can elect to bring their class to. Most of the programs, displays, and workshops were developed by Linda Block and Ben Burress, with the help of many others. And they are still going strong. This year they are running a new workshop on archaeo-astronomy. And to expand their solar observing capabilities, the Center has acquired the Swedish Vacuum Solar Telescope, formerly located on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands and are busily getting it ready for use there. Their home page is and they are located in Oakland, CA.

For more information contact Ben Burress at (510) 336-7308, bburress[at] or Linda Block at rocketgirl580[at]

TELL US ABOUT YOUR ACTIVITIES: If you use our SOHO images or movies, provide outreach and programs in the area of solar study, and would like to be considered for our Outreach Spotlight section, write to steele.hill[at] with a brief overview of your efforts. If we think you'd make a good candidate, we will contact you.

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Last modification: April 14, 2005
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