Sum­mer camp for young stargaz­ers gets un­der way in cen­tral Greece this month

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY CHRISTINA SANOUDOU

Between July 18 and 23, a sum­mer camp for young stargaz­ers has been or­ga­nized at the Klet­sas Es­tate near the his­toric and re­stored Gravia Inn in Fokida, cen­tral Greece, which prom­ises days of ex­cit­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and mag­i­cal nights ex­plor­ing the evening skies un­der the guid­ance of pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur as­tronomers.

Billed as the first as­tron­omy camp for Greek chil­dren, the camp is a joint project put to­gether by the Fthi­otida Am­a­teur As­tron­omy Club (SEAF) and the As­tron­omy and Space So­ci­ety, based in Vo­los, cen­tral Greece.

SEAF came up with the idea for a sum­mer camp in the first place and the young­sters will have ac­cess to its fa­cil­i­ties at Ypati in the coun­try­side out­side the town of Lamia, which in­clude the coun­try’s third largest plan­e­tar­ium and its fully equipped ob­ser­va­tory. The as­so­ci­a­tion will pro­vide equip­ment for stargaz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties at the Klet­sas Es­tate, where the young­sters will be stay­ing. Mean­while, the As­tron­omy and Space So­ci­ety, the founder of the coun­try’s sole as­tron­omy school as well as the or­ga­nizer of an an­nual as­tron­omy com­pe­ti­tion for Greek school­child­ren, will be in charge of con­duct­ing tu­to­ri­als.

In the mean­time, given that the sub­ject of as­tron­omy is no longer part of the cur­ricu­lum at schools, am­a­teur as­so­ci­a­tions, along with both state and pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions such as the Na­tional Ob­ser­va­tory and the Eu­genides Foun­da­tion, have taken on the im­por­tant mission of in­still­ing a pas­sion for the stars and plan­ets in the younger gen­er­a­tion while pro­vid­ing them with the nec­es­sary teach­ing.

As­tron­omy was dropped as a sub­ject last year and “re­mains so,” says Kon­stanti­nos Mavrom­ma­tis, the As­tron­omy and Space So­ci­ety’s founder and pres­i­dent. “Nev­er­the­less, we have ap­proached the gov­ern­ment and the new ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter, as well as the con­sul­ta­tion com­mit­tee, in the hope that they will make amends in the up­com­ing pro­grams which are in the works,” he added.

Ac­cord­ing to SEAF chief Fa­nis Sma­nis, there is ma­jor in­ter­est in as­tron­omy in Greece and the idea for the camp came pre­cisely out of the mem­bers’ need to ad­dress a broader au­di­ence. “We are lo­cated more or less in the mid­dle of the coun­try and we hope par­tic­i­pants will join us from across Greece,” he added.

This year’s pi­lot camp runs for a week and for young­sters aged 13 to 18. Or­ga­niz­ers hope the event will be­come some­thing of an in­sti­tu­tion and pos­si­bly ex­tend to other cities with the aid of lo­cal as­tron­omy so­ci­eties.

Mean­while, pro­fes­sors at the Vo­los as­tron­omy school are pre­par­ing for their visit to Gravia, where teach­ing hours will reach up to six hours daily (in­clud­ing the stargaz­ing ses­sions which will take place at the Klet­sas Es­tate and the SEAF ob­ser­va­tory at Ypati). They will be pro­vid­ing their ser­vices on a vol­un­tary ba­sis.

Mavrom­ma­tis says the cour­ses will in­tro­duce bud­ding as­tronomers to the se­crets of our so­lar sys­tem be­fore mov­ing on to the galaxy’s bound­aries and beyond, and space travel.

The cour­ses in­tro­duce the se­crets of our so­lar sys­tem be­fore mov­ing on to the galaxy’s bound­aries and beyond.

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