Critical Thought and Astronomy

Had such a great time talking about astronomy to the 5th grade class at Plantsville Elementary School today.

Kids get the wonder of the universe easier than adults, I think, because they haven’t yet been trained to spend 90% of their days worrying about car payments, jobs, stress and all of the things that keep adults from stopping, looking up and saying, “Woooowwwww.”

I have done these presentations for three years in the Southington schools, and also have done stargazing nights at the local YMCA camp for about that same length of time.

There’s something amazing about watching a kid just GET the massive concepts that are involved with astronomy. There’s something amazing about having a kid look through your telescope, see the rings of Saturn and realize that it’s REAL. Not a video game screen, not something you see on TV, but real. That dot up there…it’s got rings when you look at it closely.

To me, the highlight of today was one particular student, an otherwise quiet girl, who raised her hand when I asked the class why Galileo’s observation of Jupiter was so important.

She said, “He saw the moons.” I told her that was right, and then asked her why that was so important. She said she didn’t know, and I said, “I think you do, if you know that he saw the moons. Why was it important that he saw moons?”

You could see she was really puzzled. I went to another kid with his hand up, who didn’t know. Finally, the girl literally jumped up and said, “I remember! It’s because if Jupiter has moons, Earth isn’t in the center of everything.” Gave her a big thumbs up and she was beaming. Truly, it was incredible.

A 5th grader comprehended something that complex so easily. It’s not amazing until you realize that thought was the basis for massive, societal understanding, just a few hundred years ago.

I got my telescope for free from a friend, who told me that the price for it was that I use it to show the heavens to kids. Every time I do one of these presentations, I think how much I truly owe him myself.

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