Monday Juan, Daniel and I drove 3 hours south to a school in the small rural town of Quilimari. The school is only kindergarten through 8th grade, and after that, students must commute to other towns for high school. Juan gave a talk about the new observatory projects happening in the Coquimbo region (LSST, DECAM, etc) to a group of 24 students, grades 4-8. It was interesting that this particular talk was focused more on technology. The kids thought it was amazing how many megapixels the CCD of the LSST will have compared to cameras on their cell phones. One of my main questions while I'm here in Chile is how these major scientific projects in Chile affect children's ideas about astronomy. I guess this is one answer.
After the talk, Juan asked for questions and nearly every hand shot up. They asked a wide range of questions from the cause of the Big Bang to the reason the sun is orange at sunset. Juan then invited me up to speak a little more informally with the kids. We talked about what stars they could see from their houses at night (they all said they could see the Milky Way), what their favorite things were in astronomy, and if they wanted to be scientists when they grew up (they all said yes). This group of 24 students was chosen based on previous interest in science, but still, it was incredible how engaged and excited they were.
|Students practicing the Cueca, the national dance, for the Chilean independence celebration on September 18|
|Inflated Starlab mobile planetarium|
|First the kids get in...|
|... then the parents.|
It's amazing to finally be doing the project that I've envisioned for so long. I feel so grateful that I've found an outreach group that has been so welcoming and have had the chance to go to schools that are excited to have me speak with their students.
In other news, I'm liking the La Serena/Coquimbo area more and more every day. I'm making friends (mostly through the Couch Surfing network) and have been exploring the area a little more. My Spanish improves daily with practice, and I only hope that I can continue to improve during my remaining 7 weeks in Chile!