Irene Worthington Baron


Several persons have asked about my teaching astronomy in the field.  Over the years, I took students outdoors to various sites more often.  The last few years of teaching astronomy at the high school level, I took students out for night time viewing events about 8-times per year.  The last several years in Ohio many events were held at the home of an amateur astronomyer who designed a 17-inch Newtonian reflector housed in a large metal domed site.  The roof reminded me of Palomar observatory in the speed with which it slid open.  When too many students and parents showed up for the viewing event, a 11-inch Celstron would be hooked up to a video camera and viewed through a large television set carted out onto the lawn.  That way everyone could look at once.  That was especially great when were were studying Ridley Crater on the Moon in class, or the moons of Jupiter. 

One time at Dillon State Park in Ohio I had arranged for three dates in case of rain.  It rained the first and second dates, so about 25-students and myself were alone at the top of the high viewing area.  Parents had dropped the students off and left.  Students all had red cellophane on their flashlights in order to diminish the night blindness when viewing their star maps.  We were busy enjoying identifying the main stars in the constellations when a car slowly drove along the parking area.  Two men got out and started yelling, "Who's there?"  I had the kids turn off their lights and finally called back, "Who are you?" and was worried about who these men were.  I had 25-students to protect, it was pitch black and no parents were around. The men told me they were deputies in the unmarked car.  I told them who we were and was informed we were not allowed to be there after dark.  I told them we had permission which they didn't believe.  I had them call the Park Manager who verified my story.  I asked what the problem was and they said people who lived across the lake were seeing all the red lights going on and off and worried there was a flying saucer here with aliens walking around.  We got a good laugh about that.

When I taught science at the military school in Kaiserslautern, West Germany, astronomy night was too successful.  About 100-students showed up with their parents. The parents were having a social night out and visiting with one another so much no one could hear me.  I wore out my vocal cords and couldn't talk for days afterwards.  The second astronomy night I planned ahead and arranged to have a battery powered loudspeaker.  The word was out that astronomy night was great for the kids, and about 200-showed up.  Even the loudspeaker couldn't be heard.  Those gathered around me learned, but I doubt anyone else did. 

My favorite times were on the 20 trips when I took 25+ students to the Forfar Research Station on Andros Island in the Bahamas through the International Field Studies.  If we were not out on the ocean living on the 48-foot sailing ships, we were near the research station on large pontoon boats to study the stars.  One time we got to witness a total lunar eclipse on the ocean.  It was fun for the students were taught the stars and constellations before we left Ohio and could see the changes in the star positions at the lower latitudes. 

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