TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A project that provides hands-on astronomy instruction to elementary and middle school students has marked a milestone at one Oro Valley school.
It all started back in 2009 when Harland Goertz and the rest of the Sun City Oro Valley Astronomy Club were sitting in one of their meetings, listening to Dr. Steven Pompae speak. Pompae mentioned something he was working on called Project Astro, which was meant to encourage local, amateur astronomers to volunteer in fifth and seventh grade science classrooms. That was music to Goertz’s ears.
Goertz and another member of the astronomy club went through a two-day training at the University of Arizona to learn how to teach astronomy in elementary school classrooms. After that, they launched the Coronado team for Project Astro over at Coronado K-8 school, since it was the closest school to Goertz’s house.
Along with their efforts teaching astronomy in the classroom, they also decided that they wanted to raise money to help teach kids about astronomy in other ways. They encouraged members of the astronomy club to make donations through the Arizona tax credit opportunity and they used the money from that to buy telescopes for the fifth graders. Goertz says students in Arizona begin to learn about astronomy in the fifth grade.
Since they started Project Astro at Coronado back in 2009, the club has given over 800 telescopes. It’s something that Goertz says brings joy not only to the astronomy club, but also to the kids.
“Some of the kids are really touched by the whole thing," Goertz said. "It’s really gratifying in that way.”
In 2011 the astronomy club members decided to go bigger. They put some of the money they raised towards sending seventh graders to the U of A’s astronomy camp on Kitt Peak. So far they’ve sent 20 students to camp, many of whom Goertz says wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go to any sort of camp otherwise.
This year marks the 10th year that the Sun City Oro Valley Astronomy Club will be giving the Coronado fifth graders telescopes. Goertz says that as time goes on, the tradition continues with even more heart than before.