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October 2009

October BAS Meeting Notes

After our impromptu relocation to the Bartlesville Public Library Meeting Room last month, we met in the same room again this month.  I attached a laptop to the video projector in the room and connected to the library's WiFi network to verify that we will be able to display photos and astronomy software from the computer, as well as access astronomy websites from the internet during future meetings.  This should give us a lot of additional flexibility.  We already have the room reserved for Monday, November 2, and if we don't have much trouble reserving this room for our meetings, I think we should consider it our new home.  

Teaching Tools for Astronomy - Joyce Ritchie
Joyce Ritchie presented “Teaching Tools for Astronomy” - A Show and Tell presentation of astronomy concepts that can be taught using hands on materials, to students in an age appropriate and tested manner.  Joyce concentrated on initial concepts for students in grades 2 - 4, and will present an additional program addressing more advanced concepts for older students at a future meeting.  Since kids at this age learn best when concepts are conveyed in a simple and direct manner that minimizes the need for complex abstract ideas, the program starts at the very beginning, discussing size and distance.  Cardboard paper towel tubes are used as "spy glasses" to demonstrate how things get smaller as they move away, and larger as they get closer.

With that concept established, kids then have a framework for comparing the extreme sizes and distances in the solar system.  Experiences of traveling long distance by car can then help the students to appreciate the true size of the Earth.  Once the Earth's size is grasped, that can be compared with other solar system bodies.  Joyce hung a yellow paper semicircle with a diameter of about nine feet at the front of the room, and began attaching one inch green circle stickers side by side.  The enormity of the sun will become very obvious once the students have placed 108 of these green circles, representing the Earth, across the Sun.

Several paper construction projects were also demonstrated.  One was a moon phase dial providing a simple tool for determining the location in the sky of a particular phase of the moon at a specified time.  Another was a Big Dipper Clock that allows the student to determine the time from the position of the Big Dipper in the sky at a specified time of year.  Moon phases are well explained by using a styrofoam sphere as the moon and a desk lamp as the sun, to create a partially shadowed sphere that exhibits the same phases as the moon, when the students see the model from different directions.

Joyce has developed a wide range of creative teaching techniques that convey astronomy concepts in a clear and direct way.  No doubt her students have benefited greatly from this.  The more advanced techniques for older students will make a very interesting future program.

Astronomical League
We briefly discussed the club's plans to rejoin The Astronomical League.  With our move toward email newsletters, most of our dues, which were intended for printing and mailing costs, are now available to cover the per-member costs of AL membership.  We will need to provide a club roster of current members in order to join.  If we are unable to find a current list, we'll recreate it from our attendance and mailing lists.

Liability Insurance
Our recent involvement with the Astronomy Club of Tulsa for their Woolaroc public astronomy event last month emphasized the importance of having club liability insurance to protect members and officers in the unfortunate occurrence of an accident at a public event.  Research on the internet revealed that almost all astronomy clubs, large and small, feel that such insurance is imperative before conducting any event that includes the public.  One of the benefits of rejoining the AL is their special rates on club liability insurance.  I just received the quote for our club from their insurance company yesterday, and liability insurance would cost us $320 per year.  Considering the current size of BAS, this would mean about $20 per member per year just for insurance, which does not seem practical at this time.  There are several possible alternatives for us.  One strategy used by several small clubs has been to associate themselves with a larger organization, such as a community college or the Kiwanis, or Rotary, which could provide umbrella protection through its insurance.  It was also pointed out at the meeting that, as long as our public events are limited to school sponsored activities, we would be protected by the school's insurance.  The general consensus during the meeting was that this last approach is the best way for us to proceed.  We will make an effort to coordinate a few school activities in the future.

Dark Site Ideas
The issue of having a convenient, dark sky observing site not far from town, where BAS members could go individually or as a group for more serious observing or astrophotography has arisen occasionally in casual conversations among members.  The Astronomy Club of Tulsa is currently evaluating several dark site locations in Osage county, one just north of Pawhuska.  If ACT eventually establishes such a site, we might be able to coordinate with them, and use the site for special activities.  However, it would be nice to have something closer to home and more convenient to access.  Steve Plank pointed out that there is a model airplane park at Copan Lake, established by the Army Corps of Engineers.  He will inquire if there are similar opportunities for our astronomy club.  There are, no doubt, other good alternatives, so please offer any ideas you might have.

We also discussed the need for more program ideas.  Several people expressed the desire to have one or more programs on astrophotography, including the digital processing techniques used in modern astrophotography.  Another possible program is to have an "internet astronomy night" where we use a computer and the video projector to allow members to demonstrate their favorite astronomy websites and tools.  We all would learn a lot from this.  While we don't want our meetings to become completely focused on programs, it helps to have some structured exchange of information.  We want to keep these programs brief and informal so that they don't become a burden to prepare.  There must be lots of good program ideas, so please send your suggestions to Jim Vogh (program chairman) or John Grismore.  And of course, we need people to present programs.  This will work best if members volunteer without anyone having to "twist arms".

Next Meeting
Monday, November 2, in the Bartlesville Public Library Meeting Room A.  Program to be determined.