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Outreach toys

It's the Easter holidays again, and while I'm a bit far from Jodrell to do Ask An Astronomer any more, that doesn't mean I'm not doing stuff. Late last year I was contacted by Belinda over at Scitech about doing some astronomy during the school holidays. They've got a couple of science clubs for kids: Scitrekkers and Double Helix (a national club run by CSIRO), and there are events for members during each holiday. This Easter there is a lot going on, not just at Scitech but at the education centre in Kings Park, Gingin Observatory, and the Light and Sound DIscovery Centre in Fremantle, too. The amount of science outreach going on around here is really pretty impressive.

My bit (Wonders of the Universe!) is on Tuesday in the CSIRO Lab at Scitech. I'm going to do a tour of the Universe in an hour (I've got a very fast spaceship - I promise we'll be back in time for lunch!). My old outreach kit is looking a bit the worse for wear though after a couple of years of abuse so, when I forgot to bring it home from work with me on Thursday, I figured it was about time I made some new stuff. I had planned on a weekend of no astronomy... ah well, I just can't do it!

One thing I've always found goes down well with kids is a model of the solar system. A while ago I made a solar system on a string when I ran a two-hour session for a group of Brownies in Christchurch. We stretched the solar system out across the hall we were using and the kids were all amazed at how much space there was between planets. The adults were surprised too, actually. After many more uses though, the "planets" (bits of electrical tape) are starting to fall off and the ends of the rope are looking rather battered. So, I got a new piece of rope yesterday and used some bright yellow bricky's line to whip it at the right places for the Sun and the planets. No Pluto this time either (that tells you how old the last one was).

Solar system ona string, mk2
Solar system on a string, mark two! CREDIT: Megan
I also went up to the Australian Geographic shop in the city yesterday. A dangerous thing, I could spend a lot of money in there, they've got some very cool toys. I got one of the build-your-own solar system models - a simple orrery with little plastic snap-together planets and a set of paints - and spent yesterday evening assembling and painting it. It might be meant for kids, but I found it rather relaxing. I modified it a bit though. The planets are meant to just snap together, but I added some twine to the inside and glued them together so that I can hang them from the rope, and they (hopefully) don't fall apart when handled by kids! They're good little kits, but they need a bit more yellow paint, I ran out! Anyway, the solar system on a string - mark two is complete. We'll see how well it survives on Tuesday... I love outreach - this should be fun!

Posted by Megan on Sunday 12th Apr 2009 (03:06 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink


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