BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Interview: Kerry Williams
A keen amateur astronomer explains how she uses her hobby to inspire a local Scout Group to learn about the night sky and earn their Space badges
“I’ve always loved space – I’ve got a telescope, look at the stars and I watch
The Sky at Night whenever it’s on TV. I’m not an astronomical genius, but it’s a hobby that I’m passionate about. When my son was in Beavers, as part of the local Scout Group, a few years ago, the organisers asked if I’d go along and do a space night for them. They’re always looking for people to do different evenings to make it as exciting as possible for them each week – the more exciting it is, the more badges they earn and the more they learn.
“The Beavers badge requires them to know all the names and the order of the planets so I brought in a pumpkin for the Sun and then smaller fruits for the other planets. Mercury was just a peppercorn. Then I had them guess which one represented each planet and put them in order and spread them out across the hall to learn about the distances between them.
“With the Moon landing anniversaries last year, the Cubs leader asked me to do a night for them. You can complete the Beavers Space badge in an hour, but the Cubs goes over two nights. First we made a model of the Solar System using donated polystyrene balls and kebab sticks. There was enough for each child to take one home. The next day my son came home saying some of his friends had brought their models into school because they were really pleased with them. I thought that was amazing; they were pleased and that pleased me.
“The second evening took a while to get going because it involved going out and actually observing. We had to wait for the right weather. We had different stations for them to move around every 10 minutes. One had a telescope, another was for them to observe with just their eyes, while another was for using tables and apps to look around. As a result they got to observe the sky in different ways.
“Most of the kids had never seen the Moon through a telescope before. My best memory is one kid looking through the eyepiece and going ‘Woooow’ really loudly. That was what I wanted to do!
“Working with the Scout Group has really helped to enthuse my own astronomy. I work full time as well as having children, so sometimes it’ll be
“Most of the kids had never seen the Moon through a telescope before. My best memory is one kid looking through the eyepiece and going ‘Woooow’ really loudly”
starry outside and my husband will ask if I want to get the telescope out, but I’ll be too tired. However, when you’ve got something like this coming up you want it to go well, so I’ll be out there preparing the week before, putting up the telescope and making sure everything’s working. It’s really been a great experience for me, and I know the kids are always really happy when it’s a space night.”