Davis School District students participate in Advanced Astronomy Camp

Published June 25, 2009 12:00 am
Education » Youths participate in "Advanced Astronomy Camp"
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Davis School District students participating in last week's "Advanced Astronomy Camp" at Farmington Junior High School and Northridge High School got to take the universe home with them at the end of the week.

Each student received his or her own telescope.

Campers could hardly wait to get their hands on their Celestron telescopes, which cost about $50.

Students received their optical instruments Thursday. It was definitely the highlight of the week.

Besides the prospect of owning a telescope, what drew future Sunset Junior High seventh-grader Davis Jensen to the camp?

"It's the stars, really," Davis explained, thoughtfully. "They're really cool. They make patterns like Orion. And then with this [telescope], it says you can look at the rings of Saturn."

When he grows up, Andrew plans to become a scientist, a sixth-grade teacher or he'll "save up and own a lot of Burger Kings."

Farmington Junior High eighth-grader Andrew Miller attended because he's fascinated by "Greek stuff."

"The Greeks and Romans basically figured out all the constellations," Andrew said.

For Martin, a science teacher, it was refreshing to teach in this setting because these youngsters have a "sincere desire" to learn astronomy. For many kids, science is just another class they have to take. But for these campers, they're here because they want to be, for the most part.

"It makes it so much easier," he said. "They're staying on task. They want to know about what's going on. They're not asking random, off-the-wall questions. It makes the teaching job a whole lot more enjoyable."

The district decided to host the camp -- which drew 26 students -- to commemorate the International Year of Astronomy.

It was 400 years ago, in 1609, that Galileo first peered into space aided by a telescope. That same year, Johannes Kepler published Astronomia nova , which contains Kepler's findings on the motion of Mars.

At camp, students learned to identify constellations, stars and deep-sky objects. They monitored the sun with a solar filter, measuring the time of day as the ancients did.

They visited Weber State University's Ott Planetarium for a star show, built and launched bottle rockets, and toured Northridge High School's observatory.

Dedicated last month, Farmington Junior High teacher Greg Domgaard says it's the only observatory at a public school in Utah.

Far from a shack, the building --- which was dedicated last month -- has an automated retractable roof and houses a $50,000 telescope, which was donated by a private citizen.

Not all of the campers were children. Clinton Elementary School sixth-grade teachers Jody Kadel and Sybil Jemmett participated in the $150 camp alongside kids.

In sixth grade, students spend half the year learning about astronomy. Kadel and Jemmett hoped to pick up a few pointers on how to better teach the unit.

"These guys are incredible," Kadel said. "I've learned so much just from watching these guys. I need to get that transferred over to my kids in my class."

Aside from improving their teaching repertoire, the teachers admitted they were just as giddy to receive their telescopes as the students.

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