Special thanks for this guest post to Carrie Kuratra at Cerritos Library in Cerritos, California.
The Cerritos Library was pleased to have been chosen to participate in the Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos (YCCC) program. The incredible resources offered by the Smithsonian Institution allowed us to give local students a unique learning opportunity that combined science, art and creative fun.
We offered the program to two age groups: students ages 11 to 14 and 15 to 18. The students were thrilled to be able to request images from the telescopes. One boy said he took the class because he’s fascinated by astronomy and hopes to pursue a career in astrophysics. A teen girl said she was drawn to the YCCC class by her love of photography. She created exceptional imagery and added some poetry to her work.
In addition to students using the telescopes remotely and creating their own piece of cosmic art, the lighting specialist from the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts presented a live theatrical lighting demonstration. Students were able to use the light mixing board and create their own hues. Since our workshop included two sessions, we taught the students how to make their own simple spectroscopes and they examined different light sources. They also requested images of the sun and then used our telescope with a solar filter to view the sun. They were able to compare what they saw with through the telescope with the images taken by the micro-observatory.
Each student created several images and many were printed for an exhibit in the Cerritos Library. All participants were invited to a reception with the Cerritos City Council and had the opportunity to see their printed images on display at the library. The exhibit has been very well received and we have had several patrons ask about the program. Interestingly, many patrons have asked if a YCCC program for would be offered for adults.
We had 19 students sign up for the 11 to 14 age group with 10 that completed the two-day workshop. The program for students ages 15 to 18 years attracted only two participants. We reached out to surrounding high schools and to our own student volunteers in addition to publicizing the program through the City’s newsletter, cable television channel, library website, e-poster, print poster and flyer. Two of our teen participants said they felt that the time of year was difficult for students to participate in extracurricular activities. There was an SAT coming up and students were starting to work on college applications.
Overall the community’s response to YCCC has been extremely positive. The students greatly enjoyed the workshops and parents said they were glad their children had this learning experience. We are grateful to the Smithsonian Institution for supporting YCCC and look forward to presenting the program in an expanded, week-long summer camp in 2015.
Youth Capture the Colorful Cosmos (YCCC) turns science into art. Through hands-on exercises at Smithsonian Affiliates, students learn how to control the MicroObservatory robotic telescopes over the internet and take images of the universe. This blog series highlights moments from the workshops and student projects on display at Affiliate organizations. YCCC is funded by the Smithsonian Institution’s Youth Access Grants program awarded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Education and Access. The project is led by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in partnership with Smithsonian Affiliations.