Once again, ASSNE was invited to do a 'Lunch and Learn' session with the kids from the Sowams School. This program brings kids with an interest in science, from throughout the school, on a volunteer basis, to a classroom where they listen to a science topic while they eat their lunches. They also give up their lunch recess time in order to deepen their understanding of a broad range of science topics, usually with guest speakers. Pete Peterson, Danny Chieppa and I participated in this year's iteration.
I opened the event by giving my 'Scale Model Solar System' talk, utilizing a display of homemade planets which are on a scale of 1" to 10,000 miles. This enables the students to visualize the relative sizes of the planets, which are closely grouped in the display, and to see how much larger the sun (the large gold hoop over the planets) is than any planet.
Then, to show the students some idea of the scale distance between planets, all three ASSNE members herded about 30 kids through a 1/8-mile scale setup of tiny model planets fanning out from a golden golf-ball sun across the breadth of the Sowams School lot. With 11 kids bearing stakes topped by a miniature sun or planet, like the grand marshalls in a parade, we trooped off to one side of the school yard, planted the sun, and marched off paces from there to each planet (including the asteroid belt) all the way to Pluto on the far side of the school yard, in order to see the relative distances across the solar system. We included Pluto, while emphasizing that Pluto was not the last planet, but the first Kuiper Belt Object. At the end, everyone could turn and see the distant golden golf ball, and get some appreciation of the size of the solar system and the distances between the outer planets, especially. Even the teacher felt that seeing the solar system in that way helped her to internalize just how vast our solar system actually is.
We finished with a brief question and answer period. We had intended to show the students the sun, with the club's PST and Dan's absolutely gorgeous new Solar Max 60 (think Stellarvue Nighthawk for daytime use - only more expensive!) but the sun didn't cooperate in the least.
Finally, I must report that these kids just amazed us. Sowams School is a K to 3 school, and that was the age of the students we saw. But let me assure you, these kids know their science! Every question from us drew many hands and lots of kids eager to answer, and most of the answers were right!! Some of the questions were 'How many planets have rings?' and 'What is the significance of water on a planet or moon?' or 'What is Pluto's new status?' and these kids jumped up to answer - correctly. It was quite impressive. One of these kids was a first-grader, barely taller than his desk, who saw this presentation last year as a kindergartner
, and remembered all the answers!! I'm glad I remembered all the answers, or he probably would have corrected me
All this was done in a frantic 45 minutes, start to finish. Credit for the photos goes to Dan and edited by Pete.
Lessons learned: 1) These events are fun. 2) The kids DO pay attention. 3) More ASSNE folks need to get involved in outreach. The kids are starving for information and new knowledge. If you show them new worlds, you will impact their lives forever, and in the best possible way.
TO EDUCATE AND INSPIRE!!!