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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bringing Astronomy to Galle : Another Outreach Project in IYA2009

IYA2009 is now almost at the end. Already more than 11 months have passed my leaving ourselves with amazing legacies to cherish. I'm publishing this post as the 119th post of this IYA2009 blog. In fact this is an update about the latest outreach project I contributed.

I got in touch with this through the Department of Physics, University of Colombo, where I'm reading for my B.Sc at the moment. Especially I would like to thank Ms. Monika Madhavee, Mr. Buddhika Priyasad, Ms. Chethya Vidanapathirana of MAS (Mathematical & Astronomical Society) of UoC (University of Colombo) who made me aware of this outreach project and encouraged me in many instances during the scope of the project.

So let's go ahead with the story...

In fact this project was conducted by the NSF (National Science Foundation), Sri Lanka together with the Universities of Colombo & Kelaniya. I was affiliated to the crew of University of Colombo during this project and contributed to the astronomy segment of the project (Project was comprised of a bunch of sciences such as Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Geology, Botany, Zoology, Electronics, etc and each segment was headed by a professional of the field). In our crew, were senior lectures of Department of Physics, Dr. Gamini Piyadasa & Dr. Gomez together with demonstrators from the same department and other departments as well. I had 2 of my batch mates also in our crew, namely Kasun Madushanka & Thilini Dilhara.
Bringing Astronomy to Galle : Another Outreach Project in IYA2009
We left Colombo around 6.30 am in the morning of 3rd of December 2009 towards Galle. As we were supposed to conduct the astronomy session/ segment we brought a Newtonian telescope and some lenses to demonstrate how the idea came into being initially. Our destination was the President's Girls School, Walahanduwa, Galle and we arrived there at about 9.45 am. The school was a government school which was built after the tsunami catastrophe devastated the local coastal area back in 2004.

This outreach project was a workshop, in fact and we had an audience from Grades 6-8. In addition to the girls of President's Girls School, there were other children from nearby schools such as Richmond College, Siri Dhamma Vidyalaya, Sangamitta Vidyalaya, etc. Within a short while after the arrival, were welcome by the School staff and we set up our individual built-in mobile labs where we were gonna demonstrate different science stuff.

I, Kasun & Thilini were the conductors of astronomy session. We mounted the Newtonian telescope that Kasun had bought few months ago and focused it to distant objects. However I should say that we had to use simple language, free of scientific terms as we were dealing with secondary level children. This made it easy for them to understand the session and learn new astronomy stuff.

By the end of the workshop we had 8 sessions with 8 (10-15 members in a single group )groups each of which lasted for about 45 minutes. We educated the children not only on the astronomy and telescope, but also on the grounds of IYA2009 and Galileo with a brief explanation on significance of IYA2009. It was glad to see that the students were being really enthusiastic and learning new things about the most ancient science on Earth.

Moreover we demonstrated how the idea of tele-scope (later known as telescope) came into being with thanks to the efforts of Hans Lippershey and then further developed/ utilized for astronomical means by the great scientist Galileo Galilei, 400 yeas back in 1609.

We conducted the sessions towards 4.00 pm and all of a sudden it began to rain as well. (Refer to weather report on 3rd Dec). In the closing ceremony we distributed valuable gift packs, sponsored by NSF among the participants. We came back to Colombo in the late evening at about 8.00 pm amidst heavy showers.

I hope there would be more programs like this to boost the knowledge of school children on astronomy and science in general in order to make them understand the importance of those fundamental sciences and learn how the nature behaves. So far IYA2009 has been so successful in bringing this out with its unique theme UNIVERSE YOURS TO DISCOVER.