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Why Do Outreach?

Discussion in 'Star Parties, Clubs, and Outreach Events' started by Jim O'Connor, Aug 29, 2016.

Why Do Outreach?

Started by Jim O'Connor on Aug 29, 2016 at 11:33 AM

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  1. Jim O'Connor

    Jim O'Connor Active Member

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    Last weekend brought a reason do outreach to mind that I haven't seen posted. There is a real, measurable, health benefit to working with the adults and kids at these events. Although the vast majority of my outreach is outdoors with a telescope, I also support our club's Starry Messenger Special Interest Group, which does generally indoor hands-on education with special kits and what we call Make it, Take It exercises. Last Spring, we had the visitors build paper sundials using a strip of paper and a piece of string. There are times when I work with SMSIG if needed. My wife, who does a lot of this type of outreach, will testify as to how terrified I am at the thought of an SMSIG event with kids. Not my style. BUT, as part of my cardiac rehab, they teach a free course in biofeedback stress relief. Two weeks ago, I took it. As part of the course, they put you on a pulse/electrical activity detector that measures electrical activity in rest periods between heartbeats. One of the drills they had me do was to close my eyes and think about sharing activities with others. I thought about doing the outreach. Within 1 minute, the electrical rest level dropped by 2/3. Practicing this feedback during my physical therapy in rehab, this past week I was able to reduce my blood pressure during high level physical activity by about 10 counts in both systolic and diastolic pressure. Just thinking about prior giving of your attention to others, and receiving the appreciation in return, is a very significant stress reliever. And that's why all of us with something to share of ourselves and our knowledge should get out there now and then; it's a healthy thing to do!
     
  2. george

    george Developer

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    I know exactly the feeling you get when you are able to share your knowledge with someone else. I don't particularly do astronomy outreach, mostly because my astronomy knowledge is still very basic, but I happen to do a fair amount of mentoring for people who are into web development or programming in general.

    It is always the greatest feeling to know that I was able to pass something along that someone else can appreciate. Just knowing that I can make a difference in someone else's life does wonders as motivation in other activities in my life. Teaching other people has really opened up my mind about how others may look at or approach problems which in turn has really allowed me to adapt how I approach problems. I try to make outreach just as beneficial to myself as to the people I may be helping.

    I may not personally have the time to do outreach, and it many cases it does stress me out even more by adding additional worries, but in the end I always come out the other side looking forward to the next time I get the chance.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2016
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  3. Jim O'Connor

    Jim O'Connor Active Member

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    Thanks, George. A good friend, who got me started in video astronomy outreach many years ago, posted a comment on this concept on another forum of which I'll quote a portion:

    'Hi Jim,
    It's great to see you getting back in business!

    I just came upon an oral history interview with Harlow Shapley. When asked why he had done so many public talks at Harvard he replied, ...."the point is I could tell people great things. It was joyous to me to bring new knowledge on a grand scale to people who wanted to listen". Says it all for me.

    Bill McD'

    Regarding astronomy outreach, it's always tough to know when one's level of knowledge is sufficient to begin sharing. In our club we have a mentoring program that if one wants to try outreach, we'll provide one of us more experienced people (we call ourselves Sky Guides) to assist. First, as often as the new to outreach person wishes, one of us will support the outreach and the new person will just accompany us and get the lay of the land. When they feel they would like to try with their own scope, we'll set up side-by-side at an event, and be "shadow" help if needed. Eventually, the learner will go out on their own at an outreach. This is easy for us, since we do about a dozen or more events a month, each of which requires from 4 to 10 scopes. And we also have about a dozen folks who only do our indoor "Starry Messenger" support, and we follow the same mentorship practice. It is certainly not a character flaw to not do outreach, but the point is there is a real health benefit if it happens to be up the practitioner's alley. And we'll help make it that way.

    I do about six to ten of our events each month because I love the interaction with people. But it is a stressful chore to get all the equipment set up (equipment table, tripod, Atlas mount head, 10" SCT, Mallincam Xterminator, 105 amp-hour deep discharge battery, 19" monitor, cables, polar alignment, stellar alignment, etc., etc.) and then take it all down and load the truck. It used to be a lot easier with a tube dob and eyepieces! The return for me personally is still positive. But pushing 70 years of age, I do ponder cutting back on the equipment. Never on the number of events! Every one still leaves a smile as I leave, even eight nights at Grand Canyon Star Party.

    George, your second paragraph really nails it down. You are helping, especially yourself. And it doesn't matter what the subject matter is!
     
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