Robertson Primary School Outreach

posted: 2432 days ago, on Monday, 2011 Mar 28 at 22:51
tags: astronomy, outreach, Ed Foster, Bonnievale.

by Edward Foster

On Friday 25th March Lynnette and I loaded up the Vito and the trailer and set off to pick up Auke in Stellenbosch. Auke was ready and as soon we had him and his baggage on board we headed for Night-Sky near Bonnievale, where we had an appointment at 16:00 with 26 children, five teachers and the headmaster from Robertson Primary School. As we exited the Northern end of Du Toit’s Kloof, Lynnette discovered her cell phone was missing and realized she had put it on the mudguard of the trailer while helping me tie down the last of our paraphernalia at Auke’s place. Auke called his Aunt who, with a friend, mounted a search in the street but found nothing. In the mean time a call to Lynnette’s missing phone confirmed that it had changed owners, so she phoned her service provider to block the phone. All this excitement delayed us and we only arrived at Night-Sky around 16:20.

While Lynnette spoke to Monique Paton, our contact teacher at the school, Auke and I set up tables and arranged all the material for assembling the telescopes. Once this was done everything went relatively well, or at least as smoothly as one can expect anything involving a group of exuberant primary school learners to go. Despite the usual mishaps of glue on lenses, ragged cut-outs, misinterpreted instructions and incorrectly stuck on labels, we finished around 17:00. Auke then set the group up for a collective viewing and photo session on the edge of the dam with their newly constructed telescopes. Photographic evidence seems to indicate that the Headmaster and most of the five staff members present were somewhat dubious about the whole exercise.

After 20:00 that evening, in perfect viewing conditions, Auke gathered the learners together and set about entertaining them with a naked-eye star- and constellation-hopping, as well as numerous stories from local and other star mythologies. In the meantime Lynnette and I set up the two 10-inch Dobs, Lorenzo and Kitchi-Koo and, after Auke had been going for about 30 minutes, we began taking the learners in small groups introducing them to the telescopes and the many beautiful objects in the sky.

There were many gratifying "Oohs", "Aahs", and "Cools" and requests to take a second and third look, with Saturn fairly high on the list of favourites. As the evening wore on the less interested learners drifted away and the questions from the remaining learners began to flow more easily. Unfortunately, shortly after 22:00 the teachers arrived, took a few peeks and then, despite loud protests and pleas to be allowed to stay longer, the Headmaster chased the learners off to bed and the teachers did likewise.

The next day we did not get the opportunity to do our other activities due to an unannounced change in the program. We did, however, hand the posters to Monique requesting that they be given to the learners, who had attended the outreach event. We also gave her a supply of Starwheels, as well as a completed one to use as an example when the learners eventually assemble theirs.

The event dredged up memories of similar camps I attended as a youngster and I was surprised that the loud blowing of whistles, regimented standing in rows and applauding on command for speakers had not changed one bit, nor did it irritate me any less! What really bowled me over though was the fact that there was a compulsory religious get together in the morning and in the evening. I thought there was legislation explicitly disallowing organized religious exercises in public schools in South Africa – apparently I am wrong!

Later on Saturday Richard Ford arrived, but unfortunately Saturday night, despite the total absence of lights, was not a good night for observing as there were clouds and the seeing was mediocre. Lynnette and I had one viewing objective for the weekend, to see the Horse Head. We did not achieve this as the conditions prevented anyone but Richard from seeing anything, so we went to bed! On Sunday morning we drove back. Auke, Lynnette and I stopped at the Affieplaas road-stall to buy fruit and milk tart, while Richard stopped at Bourbon Street for a meal. We arrived in Stellenbosch shortly before 14:00, dropped Auke off and headed home to unpack and put everything away until next time.

Looking back, the enthusiasm of the learners was very exciting and rewarding as were the good viewing conditions on Friday. It was disappointing that, other than Monique, there was not much interest shown by the teachers or the Headmaster and also that the seeing conditions at Night-Sky on Saturday were not better. Despite not seeing the Horse Head this time we still think that Night-Sky, is the almost perfect viewing site!

via: Edward Foster

nothing more to see. please move along.