The past two weeks, students have taken part in a new Humanities format: going to the Perkin Observatory to explore aspects of our universe through different lenses. Humanities Director Jenny Foreman writes:
“My feeling is that the humanities series should stretch our kids’ minds and imaginations - to introduce them to artists, concepts, and phenomena that they may not have encountered in their day to day lives before, or to ask them to see the world in a different light, so to speak. The Astronomy series came about because I am eager to bring diverse disciplines into the Humanities events, and more specifically because we have this great resource here on campus - the Perkin Observatory - and that I know that we all want to take better advantage of. Why shouldn't every student get up there and take a look through the “scope” (as Jonathan Weis calls it)? - And so the idea was born.
We arranged for small groups to be able to come up for an hour each and prayed for three clear nights during this two and a half week period for it all to happen. Groups first stood outside in upper field, gazing at the stars with the naked eye, guided by Mr. Walters and his immense knowledge of the constellations and their mythological references. Following this, Mr. Weis lead a series of observations through the telescope. We learned a bit about how the instrument works, how objects in the sky are named, heard some stories of Messier and Galileo, and entertained general "oohs and ahhs" over a range of sights, including star clusters, Jupiter and its moons, nebulae, Neptune, and of course our Moon, which is quite bright this week!
After all this, the students went outside again and were given time to ponder: How and why do we make sense of the sky? Does knowing what a small piece of the Universe we are give us comfort or make us feel insignificant? Can you believe that that bright twinkling light up there is what we were just looking at in such detail through the scope? Can we really conceive of the time and distance we have been discussing?
Mr. Weis and Mr. Walters did a great job of leading this experience, leaving enough space and time for each individual to participate and wonder. For some, it will be just a moment of their evening spent on the subject; for others, this night will have changed the way they look at the night sky forever. We hope that it will generate more interest and familiarity with the Observatory so that students will come up more often, and perhaps this series will become a new Dublin School tradition.”