Dear ACA, 20110512
Congratulations on your outstanding presentation to the CSRA Community for National Astronomy Night on May 7 at RPSEC. The Basic Astronomy Challenge was embraced and enjoyed by all who came. It was obvious that many of you enjoyed preparing and becoming more knowledgeable about your station topics and imparted that enthusiasm to those who listened. We were a great team, helping and encouraging each other, stepping in as needed. Some were asked to help with sign-in and logistics, but when the opportunity presented itself, they helped as stationmasters too and did a great job. Many of you brought scopes, binoculars, other equipment and visual aides to help. The boards helped some learn and practice at their own pace.
The weather was great, most lights were out! Many learned an appreciation of seeing the real thing! Real views of Saturn and its rings, and seeing the ISS cross the sky were first-time and life changing experiences for many.
One of our youngest members even helped by flipping the alarm switch (not requested, approved, or intended), yet nevertheless effective in bringing many outside for a great look at the Big Dipper and other stars! We had a bunch of boys who completed 12 or more challenges for the sake of learning. The graduated prizes motivated many to try for more.
So the question is: Should we do it again? The resounding answer so far is: YES!
For our first time, we did great. The format seems to work. Still it provides us an opportunity to improve both logistics and content. We need more people and sheets to sign-up visitors. A few smaller tea tables might have been useful at some stations. And we should probably figure out a better way to collect the slips.
We can all continue to learn more about our station topic and others, and how we present this knowledge and help the public learn. I had a terrible time figuring out some of the parts of the telescope and finally ran out of time. (John has since agreed to help get it right.) I learned so much in the process of preparing, but I still have more to learn. I made typing errors too, so feel free to let us know about these and make our team better. In this regard, I have attached the questions again with some corrections and more details. It's probably still not perfect, some pictures/illustrations/photos could be replaced with better or perhaps more clearly black-on-white. By the way, I read that Endeavour will not leave for the ISS until May 16 or later, so it was not with the ISS when we saw it on Saturday. New Q&A could be added to our database. Your continuing interest and help is so valuable.
Fifteen challenge questions seemed enough, but we could have had more help at each station for assistance and testing. Some of us had legitimate reasons and were sorry to miss out on the event, so we will just have to encourage more active members. I would like us all to have soft drinks, popcorn, and nice new t-shirts for next year, and I am looking for a corporate donor.
The RPSEC reports that about 312 people attended. For all our effort, more grass is available, and we would welcome even more public participation. Despite publicity sent out in Aiken (and around the CSRA), I was surprised at the large number of people who came all the way from Grovetown, GA. Good for you! I hope we can reach more local teachers who will come and encourage their students to come as they do for SEED. Gary says RPSEC does exactly the same advertising/publicity for National Astronomy Night as for SEED. I didn't see any reporters there. I sent publicity to all I could think of, so we will have to put our heads together on that.
More than anything else, I admire the teamwork you showed on Saturday evening! I am confident that this framework of cooperation will bring us forward to develop the skills, dedication, and leadership we will need in the coming years. Our club has grown to over 50 families this year, and I am confident that this coming year can be better than ever. We are a club of great people. Congratulations on a great evening! We look forward to many ideas and contributions.
We have and are getting enthusiastic new members all the time. Please come and welcome new members at our meeting on May 20, and get a good start on our new year.
PS. I personally want to thank you all for your concern, care and offers of help. I have learned that a herniated disk is not a sneezing matter. As you know, I've been quite honest about the fact that it hurts. In seeking out information and help for this condition, I have discovered that there are MANY people suffering similar pain. It also becomes difficult for those who love us, to pick up more for us, bring us icepacks and pain pills, etc., while still working more than their share and adjusting their minds to unexpected temporary, possibly long term, life style adjustments. I will continue to look for solutions for myself and others and try not to be too cranky. But I do not intend to live a life of quiet desperation. The grace and hope that faith and trust can give us spurs me on to find solutions.