Seeing stars in Grand Lake
May 3, 2009
Last Wednesday night the skies were clear and it was a beautiful night for stargazing in Grand Lake. At 7 p.m. myself, Chris Tarr and his son Jason converged behind Grand Lake Elementary school to set up the 3 high-powered telescopes that would enable my 3rd and 4th graders to see the craters on the moon and the rings of Saturn. A fire ring was stoked and delicious baked goods were dropped off by another by a caring parent helper. The cocoa was cookin’.
At around 8 p.m. the students began to arrive with their parents ” all excited for the show they were about to see. Sam Crane, our local high school-teaching astronomy guru, was there to introduce our cast of players for the night. The students have been learning about our solar system for the past few weeks and now was the time to apply our knowledge to a real-life experience ” experiential education at its best.
After a brief behavior expectation talk from yours truly, the students were ready to begin. Mr. Crane, who not only teaches high school astronomy but also gives star talks during the summer in Rocky Mountain National Park, was an invaluable asset and the students and parents soaked up his knowledge like sponges. After a brief introduction to our night sky Mr. Crane used his high-powered laser pointer to point out Saturn and some of the more prominent constellations that were visible. The 15 or so students were then broken up into small groups and led to the Celestron self-guiding telescopes. Ooooohs and Aaaahhhs were heard in the quiet darkness as the young astronomers looked at the craters on the moon and the rings of Saturn.
As the students politely took turns looking through the telescopes and talking with one another about what they had seen, a smile grew on my face. The seeds were once again planted and I felt the strong gratification of being a teacher.