Monday, September 24, 2012

Junk Drawer: Is the moon really made of cheese?

A homeschool student totally asked me that last Monday at our "The Sun, The Stars, and the Moon" astronomy class.  "Is the moon really made of cheese?" Cracked me up.  This programming session we're discovering a new heavenly body each month.  Last month we learned all about the Sun (which completely had me freaked's just this burning ball of gas that must work correctly or we're doomed!).  This month we were preparing for the library celebration of International Observe the Moon Night, so we learned all about the Earth's silent satellite and the history of lunar missions.

Last year my library was awarded a grant from the Lunar Planetary Institute.  We received a fantastically awesome pair of ginormous binoculars on the condition that we celebrate the world event of moon gazing.  Of course I was game!  What a perfect opportunity to host an educational event while making amazing community connections!

How to host a International Observe the Moon Night event:
  • Contact your local astronomical society.  It just so happens that these are the most wonderful, passionate people on the planet.  This year 6 volunteers from the Indiana Astronomical Society brought out their huge telescopes ready to share the majesty of the night sky with kids, teens, and adults.  (All you need is a clear western view of the night sky!)
  • Put together some fun interactive stations.  These aren't absolutely necessary (the telescopes are awesome enough) but as an extra draw to the event and to encourage family participation, educational stations are worth the effort.  The International Observe the Moon Night website has tons of great resources for programming.  Our stations included:
    • A jumping pad that allowed participants to compare how far they could jump on Earth vs. how far they could jump on the Moon
    • What is a lunar eclipse, and why we don't see one every month?
    • What is the surface of the moon like?  And what effect does the impact of meteors and asteroids have on the rocky terrain?
    • A history of NASA missions to the moon:  Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo Missions and information on Alan Sheperd, Gus Grissom, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin.
    • Air-powered rockets: (1) thin straw / rocket, (1) bigger straw / rocket, (1) balloon / rocket, tape, and modeling clay: insert the thin straw into the end of the balloon about an inch and tape tightly.  You will blow up the balloon using the straw.  In one end of the bigger straw, insert a small piece of modeling clay to keep air from escaping.  Blow up your balloon and plug the open end of the thin straw with your finger.  Quickly place the bigger straw over the thin straw and launch!
  • And the lynchpin - Moon Pies.  A great southern delicacy that is a moon gazing night must.
I won't lie.  That night I was super tired and had my fingers crossed that it would be too cloudy to host the event.  Alas, it was a beautiful evening despite being a little chilly.  Once the families came, it was worth the effort.  Everyone was super excited to participate in the stations, and listening to the discussions at the telescopes with the amazingly awesome Astronomical Society volunteers, I realized that, as a librarians, we have to take full advantage of these opportunities as often as possible.  Sure it's an educational event, but it is a great event to build relationships with community members, and offer free cultural opportunities to your patrons.  Another magical moment at the library!

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