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Space education: the final frontier

Tom Meyer

While spacecraft and telescopes probe deeper into our solar system and universe, Incline Village’s astronomy group intends to spread scientific understanding of the cosmos to a wider audience in the Lake Tahoe Basin through two new programs this month.

Star Explorer Camp

Shortly before Halloween, Space Science for Schools will host a weekend-long camp for elementary and middle school students, as well as their parents, at the Clare Tappaan Lodge.

“This is totally new territory for us,” said SS4S Executive Director Paul Guttman. “We’ve done (night) camps for years, but this is the first time we’ve ventured into a sleepover venue.”

The camp will feature hands-on instruction for kids and parents during the day, followed by telescopic observations of the sky in the evenings. After the younger children have gone to bed, the group will end the day with adult-level programs. The lodge is near Donner Summit, west of Truckee.

The camp will feature hostel-style accommodations with bunks and indoor bathrooms, and the room and board fee includes three meals a day. Presentations will be made by Guttman, SS4S Director of Education Richard Smith and others.

Astronomy 4 Adults

By popular demand, SS4S will host a second series of “Astronomy 4 Adults” presentations intended to give adults a basic understanding of the heavens to help them communicate that knowledge to their children and grandchildren. The series is co-sponsored by the Parks & Recreation department of the Incline Village General Improvement District and will be held at the Aspen Grove Community Center.

IVGID senior recreation coordinator Shelia Leijon realized that there was demand for a second program after a successful evening hike and moon observation held in September.

“(Dr. Guttman) offered his services for the Harvest Moon Hike, and people got so excited and involved with his equipment and knowledge that we decided to collaborate on a second series,” she said.

The second series will begin with a class on the Sun and other stars, followed by the planets and moons of our solar system, then expand out to the stars visible in the night sky, and end with a course on galaxies and the universe at large. Incline Village resident Joan Orr, who attended the previous program, said it gave her a new perspective on the universe and updated all of her knowledge.

“As a former preschool teacher, I wanted to compare the material I taught in the 80s to how Paul would teach an adult today,” Orr said. “The most enjoyable part of the class was how Paul put the size and of the stars and planets into concrete proportions, as well as the distances involved.”

The course is intended for novices and no prior experience or knowledge is required. Telescopic observations will follow each class, weather permitting.


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