Throughout camp, we have been challenging our students with many hands-on activities rather than copious amounts of bookwork and reading. Right from the beginning our students created their own star maps, then we moved on to our telescopes! Not only were the students learning about the inner mechanisms of different types of telescopes, but they were also learning how to build it for themselves. These telescopes have been a favorite of our students as we brought them out on the first night they were completed.
One of the great parts about astronomy is that it is a segment of science that you can see daily. Our students have been viewing key stars, planets, and we were even lucky enough to see a meteorite fall from the sky during one of our observations. Recently we had one of Bell Observatory’s employees set up and remote control their telescope from one of our classrooms and we were able to see some things that our telescopes cannot see, including a star going supernova in the Whirlpool Galaxy.
During week two we learned about America’s space program and its history. This led up to designing and testing our own rockets to learn about different factors that can influence flight. As week three rolled around we had an early start: getting on the bus at 5 a.m. to go to the U.S Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL. We arrived and took a guided tour where we were able to talk with an actual rocket scientist who worked on the Apollo missions! This class has not only been filled with tons of information, but it has also improved our students’ critical thinking skills and really forced them to learn in an inquiry-based setting where they are asking questions and finding answers using their own approach. I really hope that after VAMPY ends, students will look up at the sky and feel a heightened sense of awareness of what’s really going on up there.
– Greg H., teaching assistant