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Ideas for Camp activities/workshops

  1. Jul 20, 2015 #1
    I am not sure if this should be here or in Astronomy forum!

    I am participating for my second time in an astronomy camp for children from 8 to 16 years as a teacher. Last year I designed and prepared three workshops; one on Stargazing, one on telescopes, one on rockets. The only fault that I want to avoid this time is the lack of activities or stuff that the children do themselves by their hands or tools to use!
    The children are divided in to two groups; the first group from 8 to 11 years, and the second from 11 to 16 years.

    I was preparing this year's camp, and had some ideas in mind that involve activities, but I would like to hear suggestions from you. What would you choose as topics for workshops and what activities would you include? Have you been in such experience before? What was it?

    Thanks in advance! :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    There was an interesting video I saw recently discussing the telescope mask used. Perhaps you could have some design activities around that.

    Other things could be telescope making and parallax.
  4. Jul 20, 2015 #3
    How about the option of making your own astrolabe? You can find templates online.
  5. Jul 20, 2015 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Another thought is to bring Processing into the mix (processing.org). Processing is a simple programming tool that comes with a lot of example programs for doing graphics and other visual things.

    You could design a game to find the planet in the moving dots on screen in much the same way that pluto was discovered.

    Basically, look in other science disciplines and pull in the relevant activities into your class showing how they relate to astronomy. That could include telescope design issues, aligning lens and things like that, spectroscopy using some prisms...
  6. Jul 20, 2015 #5
    That reminds me of another cheap and quick project. You can use CDs as diffraction gratings and make spectroscopes with paper towel tubes. Could be a fun activity to accompany a discussion the elemental composition of stars.
  7. Jul 20, 2015 #6

    Andy Resnick

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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Can you give us a little more information (I've never heard of 'astronomy camp')? For example-

    Given the age range, are most of the activities late at night, or during the day/dusk? What sort of daytime astronomy-related camp activities exist?
    How many kids per group, and how long (or how many nights) is a session? How long do you need an activity to be? etc. etc.
  8. Jul 20, 2015 #7
    My experience is that kids love rockets.

    Nothing like sending a few up to really get their attention.

    I also like to connect a rocket motor to a force place and measure the thrust curve. I would avoid most of the equations and such, but point out a couple of important ideas like peak thrust, area under the thrust curve (impulse), and the importance of specific impulse.

    You don't need to get into too many details to communicate that it can be quantified.
  9. Jul 21, 2015 #8

    Seems interesting, I will give it a deep look and come back again! I did not understand the processing thing from the first look, but may be when I give it enough time later today, things light up! Thanks, my friend.
  10. Jul 21, 2015 #9
    Mmm, didn't consider these two ideas seriously before, will have a look and come to you again. Thanks a lot for your suggestions!
  11. Jul 21, 2015 #10
    The average number for each group is 13 kids. There are two groups as I mentioned. Most activities are in the morning. Each workshop is about an hour and half. There is a short journey to a kinda distant place in the desert to have some stargazing experience, I attached a photo of such small trip last year.

    http://postimg.org/image/9htnvw203/ "Explaining the function of each part in a refracting telescope, and how we can have a successful stargazing experience through it." If the image did not appear, you can go to this link: http://postimg.org/image/9htnvw203/

    The camp is in a city with a beach on the Red Sea, it is 4 days, kids have astronomy activities by the day, the they go have fun and enjoy the sea/pool, and at night they go to some excursions except for one night, we go to a Safari trip as I mentioned before and do some stargazing experience.

    I wish this answered all your questions! Please tell me if you had any other questions!
  12. Jul 21, 2015 #11
    Last year, the workshop on Rockets consisted of detailed (with no equations) explanation of the 3 Newton's laws, and how they apply respectively in launching a rocket. Then they were divided to teams, each team tune and color a bottle so that it withstand the friction force, and have least friction force. And then we use a small device that fly each bottle. And the winning team is the one which had the bottle which withstood best!

    Do you have a link or a detailed explanation for your idea on the thrust experiment?
  13. Jul 21, 2015 #12
  14. Jul 21, 2015 #13

    Andy Resnick

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    Education Advisor

    Yes, thanks- this helps.

    Something that I enjoy thinking about when I'm out doing astrophotography is how to use the stars for navigation; there is a theory that civilizations in the northern hemisphere were able to become seafaring more rapidly due to the North Star- the southern hemisphere lacks such a guide star, making sea navigation more difficult. Maybe the kids would enjoy learning about using the night sky to figure out their position on the earth:


    I'm all for teaching them about optical instruments (telescopes and binoculars, prisms, etc), but it's hard for me to see how to engage all the kids in a meaningful way. For example, simple galilean/keplerian telescopes are easy to build and comparing them leads to a good discussion about optical design basics, but I don't know your budget.

    I guess for your age range, I tend to think a well thought out stargazing activity is the most valuable: the students only need their eyes, and if you can tell a compelling narrative, the kids can carry that experience with them after camp.


    Good luck- let us know how it goes!
  15. Jul 21, 2015 #14


    Staff: Mentor

    Here's a Processing sketch to show how difficult it might be to find a planet like Pluto in the old days:

    Code (Java):

    // -----------------------------------------------
    // FIND-the-PLANET
    // -----------------------------------------------
    // The sketch shows a starfield and places a planet in the field
    // The goal is to find the planet and click on it
    // (ie hold the button down until its registered
    // The framerate is set to one frame per second
    // The planet will move 1 or 2 pixels per second in any direction
    // The first 5 times you successfully find the planet the new location will
    // blink red but after that it will be placed and you'll have to use your keen sense
    // to find it.

    // -----------------------------------------------
    // STAR tables
    int nstars=100;
    int sx[] = new int[nstars];
    int sy[] = new int[nstars];

    // DISPLAY parameters
    int rstar=10;      // radius of star
    int fsize=500;     // frame size in pixels
    int frate=10;       // adjustable frame rate (default 1 per second)

    // PLANET position and velocity
    int px,dx,py,dy;   // planet position and x,y speed

    // GAME counter
    int found=0;  // found planet count

    void setup() {
      stroke(128);          // GRAY border for all objects
      background(128);      // GRAY background

      // DEFINE stars for the starfield
      for(int i=0; i<nstars; i++) {

      // DEFINE a Random Planet

      // FRAME display rate

    void draw() {
      // REDRAW the star pattern

      for(int i=0; i<nstars; i++) {

      // BLANK the old planet position

      // CALCULATE new position
      if(px<0 ) px=fsize;
      else if(px>fsize) px=0;
      if(py<0 ) py=fsize;
      else if(py>fsize) py=0;

      // COLORIZE red if mouse clicked on it...
      if((Math.abs(mouseX-px)<rstar) && (Math.abs(mouseY-py)<rstar) && mousePressed) {
        // COLORIZE RED the new position for the first 5 planets found
        if(found<6) fill(255,0,0);
        // SLOW the FRAME Rate as the player finds planets
        if(frate>2) {

      // DRAW the planet at its new position

      // SHOW Found score
      if(found>0) {
        // BLANK the background

        // SHOW the FOUND score
        text("found: "+found,10,fsize-10);

    void randomPlanet() {

      // DEFINE a random planet starting position
      if(dx==0 && dy==0) dy=1;

      println("planet --> pos: ("+px+", "+py+")  vel: "+dx+", "+dy+")");
    Its pretty lame but perhaps your students can use it as a base to make a better one.
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