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Family ASTRO: More Tips on Leading Astronomy Events and Working with Families

The Family ASTRO “How-To Manual”

From 2000-2004, we tested and developed many key strategies that our Event Leaders could use to lead successful Astronomy Events with our series of Leader Kits. These ideas have been consolidated and are available in our free “How-To Manual.” Among it’s many suggestions and tips, the Manual contains advice on advance event logistics, a planning checklist, a sample event invitation, information on finding volunteers, and guidelines for getting feedback from event participants (which is important for planning future events). Click here to download the free “How-To Manual”.

Working with Families

We first envisioned Family ASTRO as a way to expand the ASP’s flagship program Project ASTRO™ and bring what it was doing in the classroom to the students’ families. In 2000, we received pilot funding from the Informal Science Education Division of the National Science Foundation to make Family ASTRO a reality.

Over the next four years, while developing our series of Leader Kits and Take-Home Activities, we tested our materials with hundreds of real families. That experience allowed us to build a list of some very important strategies to use when planning a learning event for almost any group of families – what we now call our “12 Key Ideas for Working with Families.” If you are an educator using our Family ASTRO materials (please click here first if you are still thinking about it), and you are working with or planning to work with families, we invite you to read and use these 12 tips when planning your events:

12 Key Ideas for Working with Families

From Family ASTRO
©copyright 2001, Project ASTRO™, Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

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1. Be flexible, and always have an alternative activity or approach in mind. Be prepared with something for families to do who finish early.

2. Make it all fun, not just educational. Show them you’re enjoying it too.

3. Be inclusive. Prepare for children and adults of many ages and skill levels. Make sure that everyone has a role that feels important to him or her, and opportunities for success throughout the event.

4. When introducing activities, try to give people a “hook”: a problem or puzzle to solve, or some skill to learn. (For example: “We will get to know the night sky to figure out if the Big Dipper is always visible; or to impress your friends when you go camping.”)

5. When doing an activity, get quickly to what there is TO DO; save any detailed background information for after you have them hooked.

6. Materials must be ready to go. While students in a class may be used to waiting while you set up, families will be less patient.

7. Throughout the event, allow for as much active participation as you can.

8. Set up the room so that family members sit together. Or, try seating two families at one table so that the groups can share their results.

9. It’s best to explain by doing; demonstrate what you want families to do as you explain it. If you want them to build something, build one first and then give them materials to build their own.

10. Try to have two people helping with each family event, so that the person in charge of a particular activity can remain focused on the group and not just on the demands of a few individuals.

11. After each activity, be sure to provide closure. Review what just happened and allow families to share their experience with the activity.

12. Provide food whenever you can (even just snacks make a big difference).