Bringing Astronomy to the Underserved (December 2008)
I am Becky Saflarski, the Illinois Chapter President of City Lights Astronomical Society for Students (CLASS). John Wagoner out of Texas created City Lights Astronomical Society for Students (CLASS) about 6 years ago to bring astronomy to the underserved students in our communities. My experiences with such a wonderful organization are bringing the thrill of showing a planet for the first time to students who would not have had a chance before. When I first met John, I was looking for observing programs to work on and CLASS has three wonderfully easy programs that can be done in our local light polluted skies: naked eye observing; binocular observing, and telescope observing. Once you finish our object lists students can become a member of CLASS and the Astronomical Society. Participants receive a pin for each of the three observing programs.
Credit: John Wagoner
Through this organization, I was introduced to another great program known as The Night Sky Network. As a member of CLASS I was also a member of NSN. One benefit of the NSN is all the fun toys they provide to us to play with. They send out wonderful kits that explore different subjects, including Super Nova’s, Black Holes, and Our Universe-Our Galaxy. Not only do we as astronomers learn more, but we help make astronomy fun for everyone. I do a lot of presentations for the Girl Scouts ranging in ages from 6 to11. I am always finding new ways to introduce each new kit to the girls. I always keep it simple and let the girls play with each part. This way they are learning, but also are having a blast. Sometimes it is hard to come up with ways to teach a difficult subject. With hands on experience they can see for themselves how things work. Along with the kits I also show the girls the night sky and we have done some solar observing through my filtered telescope. On March 21, 2009 I am holding a Sun-Earth Day Event for Girl Scouts. We will learn about our Sun through different hands-on activities, using idea's from NSN and from SOHO. Door prices will be handed out at the end of the event.
Credit: Becky Saflarski
From the adversities I have personally gone through, I wanted more then ever to teach Astronomy and help out our younger generation. I always hoped that if I could spark the interest of one person I would be happy. One of the girls has since received a telescope. To this day I get the biggest kick out of hearing “WOW” that’s so cool!” I have a regular Girl Scout troop come out monthly during the summer. Each time they see something new they don’t want to leave the telescope or they walk away so excited. There have been some nights the girls and I have just lain on the ground and looked up at the stars and constellations. They are always so excited to learn more. This year during our first annual Star Party I was honored to give the Girl Scouts their second Astronomy Badge.
My passion for astronomy makes me want to share the night sky, and public outreach is a wonderful tool for guiding our up and coming astronomers. No one word can describe how I feel upon hearing and seeing the look on kids’ faces and the stars in their eyes when they see something new in the sky.
Credit: Michelle Bachman
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]gsfc.nasa.gov with a brief overview of your efforts.If we think you'd make a good candidate, we will contact you.