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Family ASTRO: Astronomy Events

Although there are no set rules for running Family ASTRO Astronomy Events, extensive testing with our Leader Kits and activities has allowed us to develop suggested agendas (found in each kit’s “Leader Guide”) and some general guidelines.

A typical Family ASTRO event lasts about 90 minutes, and we recommend two sessions per astronomy topic covered (thus, each Leader Kit allows you to run at least two 90-minute sessions). The event usually takes place in a comfortable room with tables, where small groups can work together unhindered on the hands-on activities. If it’s a community or family event, providing nametags and snacks is highly recommended. (For more guidelines and suggestions for setting up and leading events, including a downloadable copy of our “How-To-Manual” and tips on working with families, click here.)

We have found that it is best to mix different kinds of activities during an Astronomy Event and over the recommended two sessions. There are three main types of activities we use in Family ASTRO, and we suggest they be presented in the following order:

Stations: These are stand-alone activities that can be explored by participants without much instruction from Event Leaders. In a “classic” Family ASTRO event, one or more of these self-guided activities are set up in the room before participants arrive. The station activities might take place right at the tables where participants will work throughout the event, or they might be arranged in various locations around the room. Participants get started with these activities by following the instructions and using the materials provided. Participants are usually encouraged to explore stations until the Event Leader calls the group together. Some Event Leaders leave stations set up throughout their events, since it allows for further exploration during breaks, and also gives latecomers a chance to investigate the concepts covered.

Facilitated (Group): These are activities actively led by Event Leaders. They usually require more time, explanation, and direction than the stations. Often the first one presented is a follow-up debrief and/or second part to a concept or question raised in a preceding station activity.

Take Home: These optional activities were designed for event participants to do on their own, thereby providing an opportunity for continued learning at home with family and friends. Most take the form of fun games. (Click here to see all our Take-Home Activities.) For Event Leaders who decide to make the Take-Home Activity for a particular event available to their participants (and they are available at a discount for those who do), we suggest that time be spent at the end of the event to introduce the activity and have participants try using it.

Remember when planning a Family ASTRO event to always leave time for questions, discussion, restroom breaks, and (if possible) snacks. And at the end of each event, it’s also always good to do a wrap-up. At this time you can review the main points of what the group has learned, have your participants provide feedback (which is important for future planning — click here to get our “How-To-Manual” which includes information on how to solicit feedback), preview the next event you are planning to hold (especially if it is a follow-up to the one just attended), and (if available) encourage everyone to try their Take-Home Activity.

If you have questions about Family ASTRO Astronomy Events that were not answered above, see our Frequently Asked Questions for Educators and Astronomers page, or our Frequently Asked Questions for Families and Friends page. You can also email us at: astro {at} astrosociety.org