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We Reached Our Goal in 7 Days!

My mother and I are overwhelmed with gratitude for everyone who backed our kickstarter campaign for “Cassandra and the Night Sky”. We reached our goal in 7 days! We are still getting backers and are discussing ideas for using extra funds. We will most likely buy some beginner scopes and donate them to underserved schools. More information on that to come! If you haven’t seen the video and read about our new take on star stories click here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1701952376/cassandra-and-the-night-sky-a-new-star-story

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Mother and Daughter Team Write and Illustrate New Star Story

One of the illustrations from the book

One of the illustrations from the book

I have written a children’s book about the night sky. Please read on to hear about the book and how you can help bring this story to the world!

“Cassandra and the Night Sky” is about a brave girl who grows up in a land without stars. She stumbles upon the night sky, thought to be stolen by an evil king and courageously brings it back for all to enjoy.

Being an astronomy educator, I tell star stories quite often. My favorite stories aren’t the Greek and Roman stories you often hear. I get inspired by star stories from different cultures.  In one of my classes I gave the students a blank star field and asked them to make their own constellations and star stories.

It was such a hit that I decided to create my own and asked my mother, a wonderful artist, to illustrate it.  Little did I know that it would bring this mother and daughter team closer together.

At first we were thinking of self-publishing and so found Bright Sky Pressa publishing company out of Houston, TX where my mother lives and where I grew up. Bright Sky Press was so impressed with the drawings and story that they decided to partner with us in publishing it. We are raising funds to pay for our end of the publishing, editing and layout costs of the book so we can put it out to the public.

We hope that “Cassandra and the Night Sky” inspires others to make up their own star stories to tell, but most importantly, to look up at the night sky and wonder. 

Thank you for supporting this idea and being a part of bringing it to the world!

Click here to see our video and support our Kickstarter campaign!

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Transit of Mercury May 9th, 2016

scaled down size of Sun and Mercury

scaled down size of Sun and Mercury

We will be able to see Mercury pass across the face of the Sun between 4am and noon on Monday, May 9th. There are about 13 transits of Mercury every 100 years. Mercury is one of the two planets we can see transits of, the other being Venus. Whey can’t we see transits of the other planets? Mercury and Venus are inferior planets. This means they are located between the Earth and the Sun. All the rest of the objects in our solar system except for our Moon, Venus, comets and some asteroids won’t pass between us and the Sun. The picture above  is a scale model of the Sun and Mercury.

 

 

the beginning of the eclipse through the sun funnel

the beginning of the eclipse through the sun funnel

The picture to the left is the Sun safely projected by using a “Sun Funnel“. In order to see the transit you will want a telescope with a solar filter, a sun funnel or a pair of solar viewing glasses, but if you don’t have one you may be able to see it by making a very simple pinhole projector to project the sun. Let’s hope for clear skies! Happy viewing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boy Scout STEM-bo-ree

It was a “sun-filled” day 😉 at the Boy Scout Lone Star Council STEM-bo-ree Saturday.

Look at about 1 o'clock for the sunspot

Look at about 1 o’clock for the sunspot

 

 

 

We looked at the Sun and had the chance to catch a big ‘ole sunspot!

 

 

 

 

scaled down size of Sun and Mercury

scaled down size of Sun and Mercury

 

We learned about the upcoming transit of Mercury and how big Mercury would be if we shrunk the Sun down to the size you see in the photo below.

 

 

 

 

 

getting creative with pinhole projections

getting creative with pinhole projections

We made pinhole projectors to safely view the Sun. Some kids got really creative with their projections! My favorite part of the day was when they got creative and started to make patterns out of their pinhole projectors.

 

 

 

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Meridian School Science Saturday

Joseph and I had a lot of fun with the students and community from the Meridian School Science Saturday event. We brought our set up for designing and testing out proper light shielding to prevent light pollution and save our night sky and an activity called “Pocket Sized Solar System” from Project Astro. The best part of this activity is to see the wheels spinning in those minds as kids choose materials to design their own shield. Seeing them imagine then create is such a joy.

Design a Light Shield Activity

Design a Light Shield Activity

 

 

Street light before shield

Street light before shield

Street light after shield

Street light after shield

 

 

 

Here is Joseph helping kids and adults to create a scale model of the solar system that fits into about 1 meter of adding machine tape. The best part of this activity is that kids are always surprised about how much ’empty’ space is actually out there all around us. It’s also pretty great that they can take it home with them and reflect on what they experienced.

Joseph leading "Pocket Sized Solar System"

Joseph leading “Pocket Sized Solar System”

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Spring 2016 Classes

UnknownCLICK HERE to find out about Spring 2016 Classes!

 

This spring we are offering Introductory Classes, 3 Session Classes, a Mini-Semester Course that lasts 6 weeks, two new daytime offerings including a Telescope Making Class and All About the Sun class and Girl Scout programs. Programs are located in South Austin and Cedar Park/Round Rock. Boy Scout Astronomy Merit Badge programs and summer classes coming soon!

 

 

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Texas Night Sky Festival

Unknown-1         What a fun day it was at the Texas Night Sky Festival! There were a lot of girl scouts and families there ready to learn about how to save our night sky and learn about astronomy. There were so many booths and supporters for the festival!

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It was inspiring and exciting to see so much interest in caring about our night sky. With support from volunteers Joyce and Andrea from the Austin Astronomical Society, we took many kids and families on a scale model tour of the Solar System and taught the public about how to save our night skies with our ‘Design a Light Sheild’ booth.

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At the ‘Design a Light Shield’ booth, kids designed a light shield intended to shine light from glaring street lights down to the ground so we can see our beautiful night sky, make our streets safer, and save electricity.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1077They came up with some very creative shields!  They tested them out on Austin downtown micro-environments we set up to mimic a bright downtown with a glaring street light. Thank you to Globe at Night for inspiring the idea of making a micro-environment.

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making a light shield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a joy to see their wheels spinning as they chose different materials to construct their light shields.

 

 

 

 

Watch a video of me explaining the activity:

  1. Design a Light Shield


On the Solar System Walk, girl scouts, boy scouts and families got a chance to feel how far our planets are from the Sun. As always, they had some great information to share and good questions!

 

Joyce and Me

 

As always, it was inspiring to be around kids and families interested in learning about astronomy!

 

solar system walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our True Job as Educators

learning how to use a telescope

learning how to use a telescope

We are swimming in the Information Age. With just a click, we can find the answers to any question we have. We can communicate with other countries without paying a cent in international phone charges. This was not so just 20 years ago. So where does education fit into this capability we now have? How does this new way in which we live influence education?

 

It has been becoming glaringly obvious to me, that our job as educators has changed.  We are no longer the ‘holder’ of that sacred information which we want to relay to others. (This way of thinking about teaching never really felt right to me anyhow.)  When I was in the classroom, the feeling of being the ‘sage on the stage’ felt contrived and false. If we are no longer the sages, then what purpose do we serve as educators? We serve the utmost important purpose of creating close and authentic relationships with our students and providing authentic experiences for them to have while in our presence.  We let them get dirty and messy. We let them experiment. We let them follow their individual interests. We let them explore. This is the new role of the educator.  We are here now to provide them with experiences so they can have the self-confidence to seek their own answers. We are their guide as they navigate this process.  Through this way of learning, they will become the critical thinkers that the school systems are focusing on making these days. The STUDENTS are responsible for their learning. Our job is to make sure they know that, truly believe it, and have the confidence to do something about it.

These heartfelt truths are at the core of the programs that I do. I want my students to get THEIR hands on the telescopes. I want THEM to be INVOLVED in the learning process. There is  time and place for information relay and a bit of the ‘sage’ comes out, but these moments are often prompted by their self-motivated questions. This takes a truly present person who is there to honestly make relationships. It takes practice and experience, and I don’t always come from this place. When I don’t, I leave a program feeling it, knowing it and looking forward to doing it better the next time.

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