Astronomy Outreach Session at PECHS in 2011
Few days back, one of my colleagues at SZABIST who teaches at PECHS Girls School requested me to give a session on Astronomy along with a Sky watching session with Telescope. I grabbed the opportunity since the session was on a very convenient day. The day was decided because of the location of the moon on that particular day and the time of the day.The Moon was at a perfect position in sky and the phase was that of Waxing Crescent.
Date: 9th of April, 2011
Timings: 05:30 – 08:00
Event Location: PECHS School behind PECHS College
The preparations for the event were started one day before. The event consisted of two parts; a presentation on Solar System and “The Moon” followed by second part “Moon observation with Telescope”.
Welcome to PECHS Girls School by the hosts
We carried the Meade 5.1” telescope into the school at around 5:15PM. We were welcomed by the host Misbah Arif (my colleague) and her brother and friends (Marjan and Asad). They led the way to the ground where we put the scope, rested for a bit and then were introduced. We stopped just to see how the sky will look from the spot and then just overhead, just at Zenith I found and showed them the crescent. The sky had thin clouds at this time. Suddenly, we saw students coming out from their class rooms and standing on the class room doors with smiles on their face, excitement and anticipation on each and every face.
Arrival to the venue
After that they took us to the Computer Lab where the presentation session had to take place. The computer lab was dark and the projector was ready. We placed our telescope in computer lab and put our presentation into the computer and started getting ready. After some time, the students started to gather in a queue coming inside section by section. It was only 5th grade as my colleague teaches 5th grade. Although the school management had asked her to arrange this event for the whole school, however she thought it would be too difficult to manage. Therefore, this chance was missed.
Part 1: Presentation Session – The Solar System and the Moon
The session started, I was introduced and given the charge. Initially, I gave my introduction and then I introduced Karachi Astronomers Society; the foundation of the society, the number of members and about the activities of the society. The session kicked off with a question about Solar System that how many planets are there in Solar System. It came as a pleasant surprise that the students gave the correct answer: 8 planets. Eventually the presentation turned into an extremely interactive session so as to judge the level of the students. Again, it was amazing how these students did know the basic. Hooray for Primary Geography!
The students were asked to call out names of the planets one by one and to memorize we gave them this sentence. “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Neptune”, but since their teacher was one to show them the planets I rephrased this to “My Very Educated Miss Just Showed Us Neptune”. J
The students took interest in each and every sentence I was talking about. They were raising questions and I tried my level best to answer all of them. Apart from the planets, I told them about Comets, Asteroids, Meteorites and shooting stars. Interestingly, students started questioning: “Can we see the sun”. I answered with an affirmative but also emphasizing that it could be seen with special equipment. However, I also cautioned them never to look at the sun directly with naked eye or optical aid.
After this, the students were shown this famous picture so that they could compare the size of the planets with the sun. Cleverly, the students found the very small earth in the picture J.
After Solar System, difference between Stars and Planets (which was also clear to the students before) was explained then finally came The Moon. It was highly emphasized that Moon is the only Natural Satellite and there are other satellites as well which are artificial. Students were asked about the number of Moons of Jupiter and Saturn too. They were quite close that Jupiter has 60+ moons and Saturn has 48 moons. I was happy to know that students are updated. J
Just after that, we planned to show students the parts of Telescope because I have experienced the amazing sensation of looking at the world beyond. The excitement of the students could be also felt while I was explaining them the parts of the telescope. I felt proud to give these children an opportunity that I had never gotten before of looking into a telescope until I established SZABIST Astronomy club in 2008 and Karachi Astronomers Society in 2010.
The major and important parts of the telescope were shown to the students and we told them about the 2 basic types of telescopes that is “reflector” and “refractor” telescope. Further, we told them the mechanism and parts of the Reflector tube that is the Primary Mirror, secondary mirror and the eye-piece. And then it was THE time. The time when the sun was about to be set, and the sky was waiting to be discovered by these eager group of children. We made our way to the ground where the equipment was to be set up.
Part 2: Moon viewing session
Arrival to the Venue
When we arrived there around 07:00PM, we saw that there were still some thin clouds which blurred the Moon.
We started taking out the equipment. Misbah’s brother and Nasir helped taking the scope out of the box and Asad helped in assembling the equipment.
Moon Observation (finally)
Finally the equipment was assembled and our target The Moon was in focus and then the students were lined up in queues and were asked to come one-by-one and have a look at the Moon and concentrate on its features and craters. The magnification was kept at 40x. The magnification was sufficient to see the craters and at the same time have a good field of view and eye-relief since it was the first students were seeing something through a Telescope.
One by one student came and observed the Moon; each student had a smile and a happy look on their face after looking at the Moon. Then came the principal of the School and watched the Moon. When the students were done observing the Moon, then their parents came and discovered the Moon with their content children.
Entry of the 3 brothers
While the session was ON, Mehdi bhai came with his 2 brothers Muhammad Ayaz Hussain and Muhammad Ashraf with their Sky Watcher and in about 10minutes, the scope was assembled and was ready. The students gathered in queues once again, but now with their parents and then started to look at the Moon one-by-one and enjoyed.Some of the students came back to Meade repeatedly. There wasn’t even half a minute when Meade was void. One of the students was saying “Dono telescopes say aik hi cheez dikh rahi hai”, to which I laughingly replied, “Because obviously, we are looking at the same thing!”
Packing and The end
All in all, it was an extremely enjoyable event for all the school staff, management, students and the new members. More than that, it was a learning experience for all the students and members alike. Icing on the cake was the refreshments served around 8:00 pm by the management. After packing up, we went to the refreshment area; there we talked over with the management about the students’ interest in Astronomy, about the awareness of this branch of science among youth. A very promising end to this event was that we talked about having sessions in future. Some very helpful suggestions came from the ‘Bhais’; Mehdi Bhai suggested a sun viewing session, Ashraf Bhai proposed that in order to prepare the students better in advance for the viewing, there should be presentation arranged before the session. All in all, an extremely fruitful day. In the words of Roger B Chaffee, we achieved what we set to out to achieve, trying to look into the mysteries of the sky above us:
“The world itself looks cleaner and so much more beautiful. Maybe we can make it that way—the way God intended it to be—by giving everybody that new perspective from out in space.”