Category Archives: classes

Edible optics and fun science for BPAstro Kids

Astronomy club members are sometimes heard lamenting the graying of the hobby; young kids today are too interested in their electronic gizmos to look up at the night sky. Erica Saint Clair and the Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) have embarked on a new effort to hook the kids while they’re young. The association has recently started BPAstro Kids, a program for younger children that precedes its monthly planetarium shows in the John Rudolph Planetarium at its Edwin Ritchie Observatory on Bainbridge Island.

Erica Saint Clair

Erica Saint Clair presents BPAstro Kids programs for the Battle Point Astronomical Association.

Though education and the planetarium have been part of the BPAA’s mission since its formation in 1993, the program for kids came about recently as something of an accident. Saint Clair took her youngest daughter to story time at the local library, and met another mom there whose husband makes regular presentations at the association’s events. She was recruited to do a talk about Mars rovers.

“I have no background in astronomy—zero,” Saint Clair said. “I have a Ph.D. in physics, which apparently qualified me.”

She did the talk, which took a lot of time to prepare and bored her five-year-old terribly. Saint Clair also has a two-year-old, and decided that she would prefer to make presentations for younger children.

“My passion is for teaching kids science, and making it fun, and making them want to do it and beg me to do it,” Saint Clair said. “It helps to have a five-year-old who is really into and really excited about everything we do in science.”

BPAstro-kidsThus BPAstro Kids was born, presented by “Dr. Erica,” who figured if she was already creating science activities for her own daughters, she might as well share with others. The sessions feature short talks followed by hands-on activities. The kids have built edible optics, Valentine’s “love bots,” and marble particle accelerators. This Saturday they’ll make real, working telescopes they can take home. They started with one session before the monthly planetarium show, but so many people brought their kids they’re doing two now.

“I feel like we’re snowballing, and that’s fantastic,” Saint Clair said. She’s working on turning her presentations into a science-education business. She’s founded Rosie Research, with the aim of engaging kids in new types of science labs. They may eventually make tools such as telescope-making kits available for purchase. In the meantime Saint Clair goes about the business of inspiring youngsters.

“My goal is to get kids interested in all types of science, and I think space science is kind of the go-to for kids,” she said. “Every kid wants to go to the Moon, every kid wants to see what Mars is going to be like.”

Saint Clair is encoraged by the interest in BPAstro Kids and said she feels we are beginning to value “smart” again.

“I think we are as a culture shifting towards ‘science is cool and it’s sexy and it’s fun,’” she said.

Kids can build telescopes at BPAstro Kids at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. this Saturday, April 9 at the Edwin Ritchie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. Suggested donation is $5 to help cover costs. A presentation about space telescopes will follow at 7:30. BPAstro Kids has received financial support from BPAA, the Awesome Foundation, and Rotary International of Bainbridge Island.

More info:

Podcast of our interview with Erica Saint Clair: 

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U.S.-Japan Space Forum meets this week in Seattle

Leading space policy experts from the United States and Japan will meet in Seattle this week and their public symposium is the highlight of our calendar of events.

The U.S.-Japan Space Forum is a standing committee of experts from the two countries who examine critical developments and opportunities for bilateral and multilateral space-related activities. Reflecting the increasingly important role of the private sector in national space capabilities, the forum integrates the perspectives of a wide array of experts, including corporate, academic, and other non-government players.

As part of its meeting this week the forum will present a public symposium at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 16 at the Museum of Flight. The symposium will include a panel discussion about the threats and opportunities in the space industry, moderated by Prof. Saadia Pekkanen of the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington. Pekkanen is co-chair of the forum. The agenda is online.

The event is being sponsored by the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, the Museum of Flight, the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, and the National Bureau of Asian Research.

Meeting and workshop from SAS

saslogoThe Seattle Astronomical Society has a couple of public events on tap for this week. The society will hold its monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 16 in room A102 of the Physics/Astronomy Building on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Local astrophotographer Mark de Regt will talk about how he moved from viewing in his yard to doing remote imaging with equipment located in the South Australia desert.

On Sunday the club will host a free public observing skills workshop, “Stargazing in the City,” aimed at helping new and intermediate observers learn and understand the sky. The session will be held at 2 p.m. March 20 at the Theodor Jacobsen Observatory at the UW. Planned topics include how to identify stars and constellations, understanding astronomy lingo, use of binoculars and star charts, star hopping, and what to observe from light-polluted city skies.

Tacoma public night

taslogoThe Tacoma Astronomical Society will hold one of its free public nights at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 19 on the Fort Steilacoom campus of Pierce College. The topic for the evening will be ancient astronomy. If weather permits society members will be on hand with telescopes for observing as well.

Planetaria

Pacific PlanetariumPacific Planetarium in Bremerton will present its monthly third Friday astronomy talk March 18, with shows at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m. As of this writing the topic had not been published. Admission at the door is $5. There’s a full slate of shows set for the weekend at the Willard Smith Planetarium at Pacific Science Center. Check the Seattle Astronomy calendar for details.

Art on the Moon

NASA photo.

NASA photo.

The Giant Steps art exhibition and contest continues Saturday and Sunday at Seattle’s King Street Station, where it will be open from noon until 6 p.m. both days. The event challenged students, artists, engineers, architects, designers, and other space enthusiasts to imagine and propose art projects on the surface of the Moon. Their submissions will be on display at the station weekends through the end of March. Admission is $10.

Up in the sky

Venus will pass very close to Neptune on Sunday. The Sky This Week from Astronomy magazine and This Week’s Sky at a Glance from Sky & Telescope have other observing highlights for the week.

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BPAA to offer astronomy course for beginners

Edwin Ritchie Obervatory

Helix House is home of the Battle Point Astronomical Association, the Edwin E. Ritchie Telescope, and John H. Rudolph Planetarium on Bainbridge Island, Washington. BPAA hosts a series of beginning astronomy courses at the facility Thursdays starting April 26. Photo: Greg Scheiderer.

Beginners who want to learn the basics of amateur astronomy will have an excellent chance starting April 26. The Battle Point Astronomical Association will offer its six-session Introduction to Amateur Astronomy series in conjunction with Bainbridge Island Parks.

The course will be taught by Ph.D. astronomer David Fong, who is BPAA education director, and Steve Ruhl, the president of the association. They’ll cover the art of observing, solar system objects, constellations, star hopping, planets, nebulas, galaxies, strange sky phenomena, astrophotography, and computer programs.

Sessions will be held at the association’s Edwin Ritchie Observatory at Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island on Thursdays from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. beginning April 26. There will be no session May 10, and the last class will be held June 7. Cost is just $49. Anyone over 14 is welcome. Signup online through Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District using course code 131855-01, or phone (206) 842-2306.

BPAA does a great job with education and community outreach, and its observatory and planetarium facilities at Battle Point are top notch.

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