Stargazing - Thursday 25th January 2018
A clear January night … a beautiful Barra beach … surrounded by friends … wrapped up cosy … moon … stars … hot chocolate … cookies … glitter-tastic art to finish the evening … what more could you want?
When I first started thinking about Teach on the Beach I had so many ideas. Things would pop into my head and I’d be writing notes down constantly. I knew most of the activities would take place through the school day (obviously … I’m a teacher, that’s my job!) but some of the things I was most excited about would need to be done out of hours. Things like camping trips, teaching the children (and myself) how to fish … star gazing.
As I mentioned in a previous post many of the children in my class were, and still are, obsessed with Space. It seems to be one of these topics you do that completely mesmerises them. I think some of my pupils would have been quite happy if that had been the only topic we worked on for the whole of last year!
Our first star gazing evening took place on Thursday 25th January (this was a busy day!!) with surprisingly little preparation. A few weeks beforehand I got in touch with Naomi, a parent of one of the little boys in my class, who I knew was extremely knowledgeable in this area. She picked the night and I sent word out to the rest of the parents with a checklist of what they might like to bring along. This included:
A blanket or towel to sit/lie on
Downloading Sky Guide (or other similar app onto a device)
Telescopes/binoculars (not essential)
A warm drink
My class have already covered the basics of Space so just as a little revision we watched a clip on Orion’s Belt on Thursday morning. For those of you with young children interested in Space, the CBeebies Stargazing site is fantastic … video clips, podcasts, songs, games … just brilliant!
I didn’t want to over plan the night itself … you’re asking people to come out on a cold night in their free time, no one wants to feel like their at school in the middle of a lesson (especially me!!) so keeping things relaxed was definitely the way to go.
We met at the Traigh Mhor, probably Barra’s most famous beach - it’s the one the plane lands on – at 6pm and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect night. It was breathtaking. The children lay on their blankets using the star gazing apps they’d downloaded to help them identify the various constellations. Among those we spotted included Orion, the Gemini twins (Castor and Pollux), the Seven Sisters and Draco! Naomi had also taken along a pair of her binoculars and we were all amazed at how clearly we could see the craters on the moon.
The way to my class’s hearts is most definitely through their stomachs … particularly if there’s chocolate involved so we kept warm with hot chocolate and cookies. Just before heading home for the night we tried to replicate the picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of Orion’s nebula using crushed coloured chalk and glitter.
The success of this night just goes to show that parents are among the greatest assets that we have as teachers and fostering positive partnerships with them is essential. My Teach on the Beach project just wouldn’t be possible without their support and I know that I am extremely lucky. I would like to say a massive thank you to Naomi for sharing her knowledge with us, to Joan for capturing our evening so beautifully with her fantastic photography skills and to everyone else for just turning up and getting behind our new project so enthusiastically …. Thank you, thank you, thank you J
So for any teachers thinking about giving a star gazing night a go I would say go for it! Please don’t worry that you’re not an expert, you don’t have to be … you just have to have enough enthusiasm, be willing to call on help from the right people and it’ll all fall into place.