Gary Smith is the leader of this Cub Pack. He visited the Observatory over 20 years ago and wanted to see it once again, but more importantly, he wanted his Cubs to experience a first-rate facility and learn about the night sky. We began the evening at 7 PM and I have never before seen the meeting room as full as it was on Tuesday night. Gary indicated that he typically gets 7 or 8 Cub members out to their meetings but this night all but one of 12 Cubs showed up, their parents bringing them all the way from the Hamilton Mountain in the rain…an encouraging sign that astronomy is still a big draw!
I began by introducing two members of our club, myself and Muhammad Ahmad, and explaining that our club’s most important mandate was to help others learn about astronomy and that we do so via Outreach Programs such as this.
I then fired several questions at the Cubs (8 – 10 yrs. old), most of them dealing with our Solar System, and they answered almost all of them. As I am accustomed to during sessions like these, there are always one or two children who know all of the answers, and more, the result of reading on their own or being inspired by parents, teachers and/or friends. I then showed them several slides of images I had taken and very briefly discussed how that is done. But I always explain to them that their focus should be on observing the sky, first with their naked eyes, then with binoculars, and finally (if they are serious) with a “good” telescope. I showed them more slides in an attempt to give them a sense of scale and size within our solar system and they seemed very interested.
Muhammad and I then led them through a couple of competitive astronomy games and gave prizes to winners.
Following that I explained how binoculars worked and what to look for when purchasing them. I was thinking to myself that, with parents in attendance, a future birthday might include binoculars as a gift.
We then described how telescopes worked, the two basic types and the differences between them. Time was waning and, regardless of the poor weather, we still wanted to walk them through the Observatory. So everyone got their coats and hats on and gathered around the two scopes. Both the Cubs and the adults were amazed at our equipment and several questions ensued. On their way out and to their cars, we received many, many thank yous and very positive statements about the session. Gary Smith, the leader, was more than appreciative and said he was so happy that he accepted our invitation.
I think I can speak for Muhammad when I say that it was a great evening and the fun was all ours. It is so gratifying to work with young minds and see the sparkle in their eyes; and who knows, someday some of them may join RASC and maybe even become professional astronomers. Regardless, we gave them a personal experience that cannot be found in books or on the Internet!