It Was “Worth the Drive to Acton”: Girl Guides’ Astronomy Lesson    by Ed Mizzi

I regularly visit both Elementary and Secondary schools with my astronomy presentations. One of the schools is called Christ the King Secondary School and it is in Georgetown. Well, it just so happens that one of the teachers I know there has a son in the Acton Scout group and asked if I could do my astronomy lesson at one of their weekly meetings. Of course, like so many amateur astronomers, I have a tough time saying “no” so I accepted the invitation. I met with that group back on Feb. 9, 2016, and at the end of the session, the leader told me that his wife was a leader of the Girl Guide group in Acton and was also interested in my talk.

So, up I went to Acton again, this past Mon., March 21, and facing me were 19 energy filled young ladies, keen about astronomy. We began at 6:30 PM and because the sky was totally cloud covered when I arrived, it did not look promising that we would have a chance to observe anything. So I went on with the lesson.

I began with my typical oral quiz about our Solar System, and as with most groups their ages (9 – 12), they knew more than most people would imagine. And, as with most groups there are always a couple of “ringers” who seem to know more than they should at their age. One of the girls had her hand up for almost every question and when I called on her she always had the correct answer. At one point, I asked her how she learned what she knew and she looked at me and, with no fanfare and a humble, monotone voice, she simply said, “reading”.

GuidesI then gave them a simple fill in the blank quiz and we went through the answers together. Then I showed them some slides of images I had taken and then images of the relative sizes of objects within and outside of our Solar System. They seemed quite interested and asked many questions and shared several stories with the group.

I then used the program Stellarium to display the night sky as it would appear if it was clear out. I also explained how to find the North Star using pointer stars and showed them other constellations.
We were just about to discuss binoculars and telescopes when one of the leaders (who I had monitoring the sky) came running in to tell us that things had totally cleared up (so much for forecasts?). I’m sure that I was more excited than the girls and I quickly carried out one of the Club’s 8” Dobs, set it up and with the help of the leaders lining up the children, I was able to show them Jupiter (incl. 4 moons) and the Gibbous (almost full) Moon. I heard lots of oohs and awes and I was so pleased that we were able to observe that evening. For me, that’s what I call being  “high”?!!

We finished the night by taking a few photos of the group and I was presented with a beautiful card and box of Girl Guide cookies…yes!

Of course, if I had originally said no to these Scouts and Guides, I would have saved two trips up to Acton, the petrol and been able to spend the evening in the comfort of my home in Waterdown. But, in hindsight, absolutely nothing can replace the feeling of satisfaction and gratification that comes with teaching young, eager minds and seeing the smiles on their faces…because they have had an experience they may never have again.



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