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Letters From Project ASTRO Students

Paul Kohlmiller


At the last school visit for Project ASTRO for this year I got a card from each student. Obviously the teacher triggered this activity but it was interesting to see which activities they talked about. The activity that was mentioned most often and in the greatest detail was Comet Making. But a close second was the time I gave the class some hand warmers where a liquid turns into a solid after tweaking a metal disk. Many remembered the day we tried (and mostly failed) to use a couple of solar scopes. Several mentioned the telescopes that I brought into class 7 months ago.

Another popular activity was the time we used spectrum glasses. I didn't bring any interesting lights that might show a Fraunhofer line but we did try different types of light bulbs. An activity we did in the computer lab was popular also.

The teacher must have mentioned that I'm just a volunteer and that I spent my own money on the class. One student gave me a dollar. Does this mean I'm not an amateur astronomer anymore?

Here are a few direct quotations. I took the liberty of fixing the spelling errors except for the one case noted.

"You taught me more about the solar system than I might ever know about it." Gee, I hope that's not true.

"I had a great time when you were here."

"I like what you did for us and I appreciate that."

"I'd like to thank you for everything you bought or gave us. I'm greatful(sic)."

"The space pictures were nice. My picture was cool. It was the planet Earth." These were some pictures that I printed as part of an "astronomy as art" kind of activity.

"Well my favorite thing is mostly everything. What's your favorite one?" Well, uh, probably reading these comments.

"I hope that you've enjoyed being with us."

"Also how meteors and comets can be made by a lot of mixtures."

"Sorry that the class misused one of your items and broke it."

"It was nice meeting you. Good bye."

"When you gave us the calendar, I gave it to my mom for Christmas. She said it was cool." He's referring to the RASC Calendars that I passed out during the December visit. I told them that we were taking off the plastic wrap covering so they couldn't use it for "regifting" but someone didn't take the hint.

"Mr. Kohlmiller you were cool because you brought a lot of things from your house and showed us like, the zap pack when you snap the metal and the liquid turns into crystals."

"It was cool how you were talking about the electromagnetic spectrum."

"Now, I want to see space because it sounds fun and I'll learn too."

"All of us wanted to keep your completed comets until they all started to melt."

"I like what we did on Fridays when we had the soil thing that makes the comets or whatever it is."

"I'm going to give you something you need." A dollar bill was enclosed.

In an earlier visit, three students asked me for my autograph. That was unusual. Suddenly at 53 I'm finally a rock star.

I'm looking forward to continuing my partnership with my teacher-partner in the coming school year. I think next year I'll skip trying to explain the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram to fifth-graders but I hope I remember to capitalize on the "educational moment" more often.


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