Guest Article: Dark Sky Parties Pique Interest In Science
By Ned Hughes
One of the most important aspects of being a volunteer is to be involved with a project that has a lasting impact on the community, especially on its youth.
For the last eleven years it has been my pleasure to be a member of the Newaygo County Dark Sky Astronomers. As such, our group has conducted over 120 public star parties at the SF Wessling Observatory, located on...
... the grounds of the Kropscott Farm Environmental Center (KFEC).
During that time, we have reached well over 3600 visitors, most of which are children/students. And to watch those young faces light up when seeing the rings of Saturn or the moons of Jupiter, makes all the hard work worthwhile. They are quick to learn and eager to use the telescopes.
Our goal at the KFEC is to key the interest of students not just in astronomy, but in the STEM area in general (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). This goal is opposition to an alarming trend throughout the country of a significant decrease in student interest in the STEM areas of education.
If the U.S. is to continue to lead the world in research and development, that trend has to be reversed. The Kropscott Farm Environmental Center, owned by the Newaygo Conservation District, is doing exactly that. The KFEC offers programs in Woodlands, Agriculture and Soil Conservation, Nature Exploration River Ecosystems and Earth/Space Science.
Over 1000 students took part in KFEC programs this past year and we expect even greater participation in the future. None of this would be possible without numerous volunteers and skilled KFEC faculty. And without the support of the Fremont Area Community Foundation, Gerber Foundation, Consumers Energy Foundation, Walmart Foundation and numerous individuals, none of these programs or facilities would be present.
Being a volunteer participating in a project like the KFEC/SF Wessling Observatory is a most rewarding endeavor. It generates a feeling of satisfaction knowing that it’s making a difference in our youth and community.
Visit us at www.kropscottfarm.org, www.sfobservatory.org and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KFEC6523.
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