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Family ASTRO for Educators and Astronomers: Getting Involved and Frequently Asked Questions

Returning Event Leaders can click here to go straight to our Leader Kit pages.

Getting Involved

We think that, all too often, science is taught like everything was already known, when so much of the excitement and thrill of science comes from discovering something that no one knew, or seeing a phenomenon of nature for the first time. That’s why our Family ASTRO activities give people – young and old alike – a chance to act like scientist. Participants do not look up answers in a book, but do their own inquiry and come to their own conclusions.

Chances are, if you’ve reached this page, you’re an educator or outreach astronomer looking to do more hands-on astronomy or science in a classroom, science institution, or community program. Or perhaps you’re simply just curious about astronomy education and what’s available to the educator. In either case, becoming a Family ASTRO “Event Leader” is worth investigating. (If you are interested in fun astronomy learning at home for family and friends, you should click here.)

At the heart of Family ASTRO is our series of Leader Kits that allow educators with an interest in science to lead fun and educational Astronomy Events for students, families, and for children participating in afterschool programs and clubs, park and recreation programs, and other youth groups and programs (e.g., Girl and Boy Scouts). With titles that include Night Sky Adventure, Race to the Planets, Moon Mission, Cosmic Decoders, and Stars-Planets-Life, each Leader Kit focuses on a particular topic in astronomy and includes an optional Take-Home Activity (kit or game) that can be purchased for your event participants for more exploration and fun at home. Click here to learn more about what’s included in each Leader Kit.

Family ASTRO Leader Kits and Take-Home Activities are available for purchase through the Society’s AstroShop. All funds raised from purchases of Family ASTRO materials go directly to supporting the program at the non-profit Society, and all contributions are fully tax-deductible. For those educators looking for more intensive Family ASTRO training, hands-on Event Leader workshops are available through our participating Regional Sites. To find out if there is a Regional Site near you, click here to view the National Network.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I am a professional and/or volunteer educator. How can I get materials and training to do Family ASTRO events?
  2. Were Family ASTRO materials and events designed exclusively for families?
  3. Who usually hosts Family ASTRO events?
  4. Who participates in Family ASTRO events?
  5. What constitutes a family? Are aunts and uncles considered family?
  6. For what age group of kids are Family ASTRO events designed?
  7. Is there an age limit for younger kids to attend events?
  8. What happens at a Family ASTRO Astronomy Event?
  9. Where are Family ASTRO events usually held?
  10. If I decide to host a Family ASTRO event at my institution, what are my responsibilities?
  11. Why do you often recommend that Event Leaders host more than one event?
  12. Where can I get more information on setting up and leading events?
  13. What are stations?
  14. How much astronomy do I need to know to lead a Family ASTRO event?
  15. Are there any sample activities that I can try?
  16. Is there a Family ASTRO Regional Site in my area?
  17. I have a question about a Family ASTRO Activity (including game rules from our series of Take-Home Activities).
  18. How can I learn more about providing science learning events for families?
  19. I am excited about the potential of Family ASTRO and would like to support your work. How can I help?

1. I am a professional and/or volunteer educator (e.g., schoolteacher, homeschool teacher, science center/museum staff, planetarium director, afterschool provider, nature center docent, astronomer involved in outreach, etc.). How can I get materials and training to do Family ASTRO events?

All Family ASTRO materials can be ordered online through the ASP’s AstroShop. Click here to be taken directly to the AstroShop’s Family ASTRO page.

All Family ASTRO Leader Kits include a “Leader Guide” with detailed instructions and sample agendas to lead Astronomy Events, some hard-to-find materials, background information, and links to online resources. With each Leader Kit purchase, you can also download our enhanced Leader Guides that include live links to all recommended web resources, and (if you have a high-speed internet connection), our online training videos.

For more intensive Family ASTRO training, check to see if you are located near one of our Regional Sites around the country that offer Family ASTRO workshops. Click here to see the list of current sites.

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2. Were Family ASTRO materials and events designed exclusively for families?

No. Although we originally developed the program for educators to work with families* (or, for that matter, any child and adult caregiver), we soon recognized that a wide variety of “student” groups (e.g., children in an afterschool program or youth club) could participate and use the materials. So, whether you want to do some astronomy activities with a class, a youth science club, a Girl Scout troop, a museum or science center camp, or homeschoolers, we encourage you to try our series of Leader Kits and/or Take-Home Activities.

*Click here to learn more about our research and tips on working with families.

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3. Who usually hosts Family ASTRO events?

Many different kinds of educators can host Family ASTRO events. Museum educators and docents, afterschool providers, youth group leaders, schoolteachers, amateur astronomy club members, professional astronomers, nature center interpreters, and parents with an interest in science are just some examples of Family ASTRO Event Leaders. Often, educators and volunteer astronomers act as co-hosts, each bringing his or her own expertise to the event. If you are located near one of our Regional Sites, occasionally the Site Leaders can help you find a volunteer astronomer. Also, many astronomy club members love to share their enthusiasm for the cosmos and some may be willing to help you lead an event. To find out if there is a club near you, click here to search the Night Sky Network directory.

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4. Who participates in Family ASTRO events?

Event Leaders determine the size of the group and the source of participants who attend their events. We recommend that Family ASTRO events be scheduled for no more than 35-40 people (or, if working with families, roughly 12 families).

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5. What constitutes a family? Are aunts and uncles considered family?

In Family ASTRO, we take care to define “family” as broadly as possible. The activities were originally designed for children to do with their adult caregivers. Those caregivers can be grandparents, guardians, aunts, uncles, mentors, or other adults. And quite often, a “family” attending a Family ASTRO event comprises only one child and one adult (but there is no limit).

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6. For what age group of kids are Family ASTRO events designed?

Most of the activities were designed for kids ages 7-8 and up.

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7. Is there an age limit for younger kids to attend events?

This is a choice made by each Event Leader. Since the activities are designed for ages 7-8 and up, it can often be distracting to have kids that are much younger attend – as they usually demand quite a bit of attention. It is therefore not uncommon for Family ASTRO Event Leaders to set an age limit on participants (usually this is covered in all announcements sent out to recruit participants). Some Event Leaders arrange for childcare for younger children at the event location.

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8. What happens at a Family ASTRO event?

Click here to learn more about Family ASTRO Astronomy Events.

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9. Where are Family ASTRO events usually held?

Events are held in a variety of settings, although an educator’s place of employment is the most common location. Therefore, places such as schools, afterschool and community centers, and museums are regular sites for Family ASTRO events. Some volunteer Event Leaders use rooms at local service organization or athletic facilities. But in general, we recommend against using private homes for such events (unless people know each other well) because of liability and clean-up issues.

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10. If I decide to host a Family ASTRO event at my institution, what are my responsibilities?

As a Family ASTRO Event Leader, you are responsible for securing and setting-up a venue in which to hold your event, recruiting participants to attend, and providing all needed materials for the activities.

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11. Why do you often recommend that Event Leaders host more than one event?

We have found that it is of tremendous benefit for families and other participants to attend more than one Family ASTRO event. Many participants enjoy coming back for a second event (usually no more than a week later) so they can ask follow-up questions, get help with problems that came up at home, and try new activities. We therefore strongly encourage leaders to offer a series of events – usually two per Leader Kit.

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12. Where can I get more information on setting up and leading events?

Click here to download our free “How-To-Manual”.

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13. What are stations?

In a “classic” Family ASTRO event, stations (self-guided activities) are set up in the room before participants arrive. The stations might be right at the tables where they sit, or arranged in various locations around the room. Each station has an activity that can be done without too much help, by following the instructions and using the materials provided. Participants are usually encouraged to explore stations until the Event Leader calls the group together to start the facilitated activities. Some Event Leaders also 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 by the stations.

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14. How much astronomy do I need to know to lead a Family ASTRO event?

Many educators without a significant astronomy background find that they can lead a family event just by reading over our materials carefully. All Family ASTRO Leader Kits include a “Leader Guide” with detailed instructions for each activity and sample agendas for the events. To help you get started, some astronomy background reading and other resources (including web-based training videos) are provided too. Still, if your background in astronomy is not especially strong, you may want to find a volunteer professional or amateur astronomer to help you lead your first few events. If you are located near one of our Regional Sites, occasionally the Site Leaders can help you find a volunteer astronomer. Also, many astronomy club members love to share their enthusiasm for the cosmos and some may be willing to help you lead an event. To find out if there is a club near you, click here to search the Night Sky Network directory.

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15. Are there any sample activities that I can try?

Click here to see a list of sample activities from Family ASTRO.

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16. Is there a Family ASTRO Regional Site in my area?

Click here to see a list of Family ASTRO Regional Sites around the country.

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17. I have a question about a Family ASTRO Activity (including game rules from our series of Take-Home Activities).

If you have a question about any of our Family ASTRO kits or games, please contact us by e-mail at: astro {at} astrosociety.org. You can also visit the web page for each individual Leader Kit:

Night Sky Adventure
Race to the Planets
Moon Mission
Cosmic Decoders
Stars-Planets-Life

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18. How can I learn more about providing science learning events for families?

Click here to learn more about our research and tips on working with families.

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19. I am excited about the potential of Family ASTRO and would like to support your work. How can I help?

All funds raised from purchases of Family ASTRO materials go directly to supporting the program at the non-profit Society, and all contributions are fully tax-deductible. You can help disseminate and share information about the program by referring others to the Family ASTRO web pages.

Our Regional Sites also help disseminate the program materials and provide training for others. If you work for or represent an education institution (e.g., observatory, science museum, university, etc.) and are interested in becoming a Family ASTRO Regional Site, you should read “So You Want to Start a Family ASTRO Site?,” which includes a number of Frequently Asked Questions for potential Site Leaders.

Lastly, straightforward donations of financial support are most welcome. Click here to donate.

If you have a question about Family ASTRO that we have not addressed, please contact us by e-mail at: astro {at} astrosociety.org