Scopes for School is an AAA program designed to inspire young minds by equipping New York City middle schools and high schools with the tools and basic skills to develop an appreciation for astronomy through stargazing. The AAA provides brand new observing equipment that could include binoculars, telescope, mount, and accessories within the program’s budget.
In return, the AAA asks only that the schools make good use of the telescopes in the classroom, at special events, and in their local community.
School Selection Process
To date, the Scopes for Schools program has partnered with two outside organizations to identify schools that might be interested in the program. In our first year, we worked with the NYC Department of Education to launch a pilot program. Last year we continued the pilot program with the help of Math for America (www.mathforamerica.org). In both years, the organization sent out a letter and a questionnaire to schools that they thought would make good candidates. This past year, we received responses from 18 schools.
The Scopes for School committee then evaluated the questionnaires and came up with a short-list of schools. After further review, we came up with five schools, one from each borough.
We plan to continue working with Math for America in the coming year to identify more schools. In addition, we may accept applications directly from interested schools, although the specific procedures for that are still being worked out.
Intial Meeting with Schools
After a school is selected, we visit the school to meet the teachers that will be working with us and to discuss the specific ways the school plans to use their equipment, both in the school and as part of a public outreach program. Based on the school’s needs, we identify a specific observing kit for the school, including accessories. We take into consideration things like the size and weight of scope, space to securely keep the equipment, and whether or not a computer-assisted, electronic mount is called for.
If a school has existing astronomy equipment sitting dormant in a closet, we inspect, repair, and make the scope ready for use. For example, we might repair the telescope or mount, or replace broken or missing finder scopes and eyepieces.
Equipment Ordering and Delivery
Once the observing kit has been identified, we order the equipment, specifying delivery direct to the school or to the AAA. Either way, we visit the school to inventory the items and to show the school how to set up, align, and operate its telescope. We provide training on the basic operation of telescope and explain basic concepts such as use of the finderscope, eyepiece field of view, magnification, and orientation. We also provide a curated list of internet resources that would be helpful in preparing and conducting a stargazing session.
We also provide early life support to assist those schools with little observing experience. We are always available, to participate in a school’s initial star party observing sessions.
Moving Forward Together
School students and faculty are encouraged to come with (or without) their telescopes to our regular AAA public observing sessions. In addition, school representatives are invited to make a short presentation at our annual meeting in May, giving them the opportunity to interact with our members.
Longer term, the AAA remains available to assist schools by offering support through another program, AAA School Outreach, which can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participating Schools (listed in order of equipment delivery date)
- Brooklyn Technical HS (Brooklyn) – January 2016
- Marble Hill School (Bronx) – October 2016
- HS of Telecomm Arts & Technology (Brooklyn) – October 2016
- Marsh Avenue School (Staten Island) – November 2016
- Wagner School of Telecomm & Arts (Queens) – November 2016
- American Dream School (Bronx) – April 2017
- MS 250 (Manhattan) – May 2017
- Pace High School – May 2017
- HS for Environmental Studies (Manhattan) – May 2017