Experience 45 of 52: Exploring the Universe Beyond Our Eyes

Rather than try my amateur hand at writing up this event, it’s best described as written in the Carroll County Times coverage of the event (and notice the pictures of Grace and Kate in the article :))

“At the Eldersburg library, guest presenter Bonnie Meinke, an astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute on the campus of Johns Hopkins University, said the program seeks to interest young girls in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math.

“We incorporate the whole family into our program. It’s a proven practice that involving kids in a collaborative environment with hands-on activities encourages learning,” Meinke said.

While topics in space science can seem as vast as the universe itself, Meinke and fellow institute employee Holly Ryer narrowed down the subject matter to the use of color and light as a method of space exploration, in order to fit the lesson into the 90-minute time frame. Hands-on experiences were provided that allowed the children to use the same processes astronomers use when studying outer space.

A simple experiment with flashlights using red, green and blue lights introduced the children to the concept that by combining and filtering various color combinations from each flashlight, new colors can be created — including white, the color of stars as seen by the naked eye. Similarly, Meinke explained, scientists use various color filters on telescopes to identify the chemical makeup and composition of a star, planet or nebula, as different chemicals are different colors.

Each participant was given a pair of red and blue color-filtering glasses, which look similar to glasses used for 3-D movies, as well as a pair of radial-refracting glasses that give a kaleidoscope effect to light. Through several hands-on exercises, the youths used their special glasses to filter colors to see hidden messages and pictures around the room, on a light board and on transparencies. Then they created a group project by layering transparency film and using different colored markers. The end product showed varying images, depending on which color-blocking glasses were worn.”

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