Each ripping open a cardboard box, fifth-graders at Coronado K-8 School excitedly pull out new telescopes – given to them by the Sun City Oro Valley Astronomy Club.
The room filled with talking and the tearing of plastic wrap as the students one-by-one pulled out a telescope, lens caps, magnified eye pieces and moon filters. During this time, club member Bob Cratty instructed the students as to how to assemble the pieces together and handle the telescopes with care.
For fifth-grader Lucas Ryan, the telescope was the highlight of his day and an unexpected surprise.
“It’s so cool,” said Ryan. “This is the first time I’ve ever gotten one of these. I’m just really excited.”
For the past five years, the club has raised money to buy new telescopes for the fifth graders at Coronado. Stephen Pompea from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory designed a telescope that kids could put together. After seeing a few states take off with the idea of donating telescopes to schools, the Sun City Oro Valley Astronomy Club decided to join Project Astro and to do it on a smaller scale – the lucky school being Coronado.
“We looked around and Coronado being the closest to us, and a Title I school, we decided we could help out a bit,” said Cratty.
The club not only donates the telescopes, but also visits periodically throughout the year to give demonstrations and present shows on astronomy.
This last summer, the club was able to send four kids to a summer astronomy camp. This year, the club received enough donations that they were able to buy two large telescopes for the school – a gift that the seventh-and eighth-graders will use.
“It seems to be working,” said Cratty about donating the telescopes. “The idea is to get them more interested in math and science and use astronomy as a hook.”
Cratty’s hopes for the next year would be to raise enough money to buy a high-quality camera to fit onto one of the big telescopes.