Olympic View Elementary School Science Night

Default event

Open to Public

Type: Outreach

Held on: Mar 06, 2012 (Tue) at 06:30 PM to Mar 06, 2012 (Tue) at 08:30 PM

Location: 47.680880, -122.341411

Event Coordinator: Zongyao Mao

Olympic View Elementary School Science Night


Latitude 47.68088, Longitude -122.341411


The SAS outreach event at Olympic View Elementary Science Night was a really enjoyable experience for all! Six SAS members arrived at the school by 6:00 p.m. to set up for the event which lasted from 6:30 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The participating members were Liz, Roger, David, Mike,Diane, and me (Mary); and each brought and set up at least one personal telescope, including a 4" refractor, a 6" Dobsonian mounted Newtonian, a 5" Schmidt Cassegrain, an 8" goto Schmidt Cassegrain, and tripod-mounted binoculars. Unfortunately, sky conditions, which had the moon peeking through clouds, made outside observation impossible; but the telescopes' presence indoors generated considerable discussion, especially with adults, about telescope use. I would guess that our presentation stirred interest in astronomy among the parents present as well as their children. All of us were busy nearly every moment in interacting with and answering questions from students and their parents.

Our display table featured a wonderful cloth table cover with a panorama of the universe and astronomical objects, supplied by Liz. Liz and Mary brought books written for young astronomers, posters, star charts, constellation maps, and other hands-on and graphic materials. To encourage further involvement in SAS, we made available a flyer giving information about all SAS events and activities open to the public as well as URL's for the SAS Web site and Through the Clouds. Liz brought a seemingly limitless amount of wonderfully creative, interactive material, and she had the kids spellbound in rapt attention as they learned about the solar system. While Roger, Diane, Mike, and David, answered questions from students and passed out the flyers, I tried to move the kids beyond the solar system to a very simplistic view of the expansion of our universe with an activity I had found in a book I bought in the '90's, entitled, Astronomy for Every Kid. Armed with three huge bags of balloons and three bags of bubble gum, I invited each kid to blow up a balloon, which I marked via felt pen with dots representing the galaxies. (Actually, the bubble gum wasn't a part of the activity as described in the book!) The increasing distance between "galaxies" as kids inflated the ballons showed them graphically if simplistically, the runaway motion of galaxies due to the universe expansion. The activity evolved into quite a crowd pleaser after I decided to offer bubble gum rewards to any student who actually managed to inflate a balloon. Since I had personally found it impossible to inflate the one ballon I had tried, I decided any kid who had the character, breath, and perseverance to inflate those phenomenally resistant balloons deserved a prize. The news that free balloons and gum were available at the astronomy table soon traveled like wildfire, and I had multitudes of kids, huffing and puffing to expand the universe, a feat I had found beyond my level of breath control. Because of my own lack of balloon inflating prowess, I sympathized with the kids who failed to inflate a balloon and gave them a piece of bubble gum for solid effort. Before long, I also had adult parents demonstrating their balloon inflation skills and asking for bubble gum.

Everyone had great fun, but I hasten to point out that this fun activity was based on the serious, pedagogical principle that learning is more effectively accomplished when a maximum number of senses are involved in accessing the information since each student has an individual learning style. It isn’t always possible to involve the sense of taste, but the VAK theory holds that information should be accessed in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modes if possible, to ensure effective learning for all student learning styles. The balloon activity covered all three modes, and the bubble gum reinforced the expansion concept while adding the sense of taste. Because of the generally noisy and distracting conditions, it wasn’t possible to impart more complex knowledge, but I’m suspecting and hoping that the fun and information learned with those balloons might be the catalyst toward further pursuit of information about the universe. I'm including here this detailed description of one activity as well as the multiple activities, materials, and interaction of all SAS members with students and their parents as a kind of reference and idea resource for ORBIT members who may be involved in future elementary school outreach.
Although providing astronomy education was the major goal of the evening, all of us agreed a major side effect of achieving that goal was an evening that was really fun; and we loved every minute of interaction with those kids and their parents! Fun for SAS members was not a stated or implied goal for the evening, but we really enjoyed the event thoroughly and are more than ready to participate in the next elementary school astronomy education event. And in addition to the sheer fun of this event, we were rewarded with deep satisfaction in our knowledge that we had in one evening introduced 500 kids and parents to the joy of discovering the mysteries of the universe.

Mary Anderson


Number of Supporters: 6

Number of Attendees: 500

Number of Telescopes: 6

Duration (hours): 1.5



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