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Introducing Astronomy to Disadvantaged Kids

In October 2006 I was invited to give a talk on astronomy to a group of "at risk" high school age children at Castleberry Independent School District in Fort Worth, Texas. I prepared a slide show with the help of my very talented son who teaches at the school and included a few tidbits about Pluto at the end. I was not sure whether or not I was going to have time for a Plutonian discussion. (Pluto had just been ejected from the solar system), but was prepared anyway since I was sure I was going to get a few questions about the "demoted dwarf".

Promoting Astronomy at REACH High School In the end I was glad I was prepared, because the kids were quite interested in the subject. I found this fine group of young men and women to be up to date with the latest space news and we had time for a lot of "fact-volleys". At the end of the hour, I raffled off a few Sky and Telescope magazines, a star finder and a pair of Meade binoculars. (One young man wanted my NASA folder!) The winner of the binoculars was obligated to turn in an observing report. The lucky winner of the much coveted pair of binoculars - one of my favorite pairs - was Mr. Carlos Hernandez, age 19.

Here is his report:
The day I got home, I showed the binoculars to my girlfriend and my Mom. Everyone was excited. We all went out to see what we could see. My Grandma and my girlfriend's family were also interested and we all looked at the Moon and the planets. My friend, Donato, also came over several nights and we all went outside to observe the Moon. It was very bright, but not yet full. Almost every night we've gone out to observe. There are a lot of trees near my house, so sometimes we go to Inspiration Point to observe, whenever the weather is nice. We have a better view of the sky there. We stay out at least an hour or two every night that we go out. If it is cold we only stay out about an hour.

My girlfriend, Chamari, has more time to look at the links you sent. Unfortunately with school and work I haven't had the time to do the research I'd like to. I haven't been able to visit the planetarium yet either, but hope to do that soon. My girlfriend and I just celebrated our first year together. She went online and bought me a star. The first time we went out to observe, I looked up and saw all those stars and felt that the universe is endless. It was so cool. I am very happy I won the binoculars. It has increased my interest in astronomy to about ten times what it was before. It's been a good thing for my family and my girlfriend's family.

Note from the School Principal, Ms. Wanda Mitchell:
REACH High school opened in 1995. Students attend REACH for a variety of reasons. The majority are at least 1-2 grade levels behind due to various reasons. Often times, it is due to poor attendance. If a student does not attend school for a certain amount of days in a traditional high school, he or she does not receive credit for the class no matter how high the grade is. At REACH, students work at their own pace, which gives them an opportunity to accelerate if they have enough self-discipline and motivation. We also have several students who have a child and usually have at least a couple of girls who are pregnant. Over 200 students have graduated from the program and many are first time graduates on both sides of their family.

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Author: Lydia Lousteaux

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