Unusual Astronomical EventBy Peter Corlett November 2012
A positive science learning experience
The solar eclipse was a very special event for Waikanae School children on Wednesday. Viewing the rare astronomical event safely was possible, through a telescope and screen set up by local amateur astronomer, Dr Graham Bird.
Dr Bird said that while he dabbled in astronomy, his telescope, a 70mm 30x spotting scope, was usually used for bird watching. Although a smaller scope, it was capable of just seeing the moons around Jupiter.
It was not the first experience Dr Bird had of seeing an eclipse, having also seen a full eclipse in London in 2002.
Because the eclipse was during the school lunchtime, any of the children who wanted to, were able to discuss the eclipse with him. Dr Bird said that the children showed a real interest in the eclipse and while many were very knowledgeable about what was happening, there were a few that wanted to know why the moon went in front of the sun.
In a senior class, children were also able to view the eclipse using a different method, a card with a pinhole, and a screen, which produced a small but clear image. School staff commented that seeing this significant and unusual astronomical event was a positive science learning experience that could encourage a student’s love of science, and possibly a future career in science. “It was very exciting for the children to have the opportunity to witness such a rare phenomenon in a safe way”, said Waikanae School teacher Liz Hobson.