A click a day helps astronomers help kids

By Phil Plait | September 1, 2010 11:35 am

darkskiesbrightkidsIf you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you’ve read about my friend Nicole, aka Noisy Astronomer. She’s a young grad student studying radio astronomy at the University of Virginia (my alma mater!), and she’s very gung ho about astronomy outreach.

In a recent post about comets, I mentioned her and a project she and a bunch of other grads are working on: Dark Skies, Bright Kids. This is a terrific project that is doing a lot to bring the joy and wonder of astronomy to third graders in Albemarle County, the home of UVa (if you saw my show "Bad Universe" where I made the comet, I got that recipe from Nicole and DSBK!). One of their efforts is a bilingual book designed to make astronomy fun for the kids — I have a copy, and it’s very cute; as someone who has worked on astronomy education I know kids that age will love it. Nicole and her group have a big goal for the book, too: they’re looking to get a copy of it into the hands of every single third-grader in the county.

To do this, they applied for a Pepsi Refresh Grant, which, if they win, will get them $25,000! And you can help: all you have to do is go to the page and click a link to vote for them. To be fair, surf around and look at the other applicants if you want; there are other worthy efforts. But I’m voting for DSBK because I know how important it is to get kids to look up and have a sense of wonder about the Universe around them.

They also put together a short video of the children having fun while learning science:

Voting is open now, closes September 30, and once you sign up you can vote once per day. Thanks!


Comments (15)

  1. Mike

    No Phil, good cause and all but I refuse to go through all the sign up crap and open myself up for yet more spam.

  2. Mike, FWIW, I’ve been voting for similar projects w/ Pepsi for some time now and haven’t received a single piece of spam from it. And I didn’t even use my “for junk only” email address this time! In fact, we’re rather happily surprised at that aspect.

    Thanks, Phil! There was much excitement in our department when we saw this.

  3. @ Mike: Just so you know, I signed up months ago and haven’t gotten a single piece of spam from them yet. I was/am shocked.

    Thanks Phil for helping us get the word out!

  4. Janice

    I can also verify that I have received no spam from the Pepsi grant system. More importantly, as the Fiscal Administrator for UVa Astronomy, I can vouch for how creatively and effectively DSBK is using its limited financial resources. This group provides such quality science education and outreach to rural elementary school students because Professor Johnson, the graduate and undergraduate students, and the staff members who give their time to DSBK are putting a phenomenal amount of thought and care into this program. The stories they bring back to the office are wonderful and almost make me feel like I get to join them for their fun science projects every Friday afternoon!

  5. Thanks so much!

    Also – Mike – No spam from Pepsi.
    I’m signed up as a contact for our grant proposal and have not received a single spam message! If it had been any other way, we wouldn’t advertise so broadly

    Thank you again!

  6. Thanks so much!
    You can follow our progress & receive reminders through Facebook:

    Also – Mike – No spam from Pepsi.
    I’m signed up as a contact for our grant proposal, as well as for myself, and have not received a single spam message!! Its actually happily surprising!

  7. MadScientist

    Another thing to do is to make it freely available in a widely readable electronic format. :) But that might just be my inner commie^H^H^H^H^H^H scientist speaking.

  8. Messier Tidy Upper

    I’ve signed up and voted for it. Thanks BA great idea. :-)

    One suggestion (which I noted as a comment there under StevoR) why limit it to just two languages? Perhaps they could add a few more?

    Looks like we get no less than ten votes there – not quite sure what the deal with that is? One per day remaining? Ten per day? Can we vote for more than one or give all ten to the one project? Not sure.

    EDIT : Aha! They *do* have it there – vote for up to ten of your fave ideas per day.

    The sign-up rigmarole may put some people off and I’d rather they had it completely open (ie. just ‘click to vote’ without needing any registering) but I guess they’ve got reasons for that. I also find it somewhat ironic that pepsi could be funding a few things linked to kids health – at least one of the projects was something about teaching kids to eat healthy. It didn’t say on that page whether that included telling them not to drink fizzy sugary* soft drinks! 😉

    * Yes or artificial chemical sweetners or whatever pepsi uses. I guess you could argue that they’re trying to do the right thing & repair some of the damage & that as an occassional treat in moderation soft drink is okay but hmmm..

  9. Uh, Rachel & Nicole, correct me if I’m wrong (still waiting to hear THAT line from a creationist!) but when you wrote “every single third-grader in the county.” Shouldn’t that be “every elementary school library in the state.”???
    The Pepsi site lists these “Deliverables”:
    – 6,750 books delivered, one for every public 3rd grade classroom in Virginia
    – 1,250 books delivered, one for every public elementrary school library in VA

    I put this worthwhile event in my CAS talk tonight. It’s one of our “Websites of the Month” and I put the link on the CAS website as well. It’s currently in 65th place, so let’s get voting!

    Red Hill School is lucky to have Dr. Kelsey Johnson’s kids in attendance. I tried & tried to get my kids’ middle school science teachers interested in having a star party. She was only interested in “teaching to the test” so the Va Standards Of Learning (SOL) scores would make her look good. Disinterested in education, apparently, just interested in keeping her job. The Red Hill Elementary teacher must be a gem! We need more like her!

    Now that both my daughters are in high school things may be different. My eldest is taking physics and the teacher has an MS from UVa! He GETS it! W00T!

  10. Ken (a different Ken)

    OK, since everyone is saying this doesn’t generate spam, I signed up and voted.

    I should also point out that this is education going to the kids of the people who put Cuccinelli in office. Sending some actual science knowledge their way is surely a worthy goal!

  11. MadScientist, don’t worry, that’s the plan! It’s important for us to get it into schools, however, as we realized that many of our students did not have internet access at home. But for those of us that practically live on teh interwebz, it’ll be available as a pdf!

  12. Thanks everyone!
    @ Mad Scientist, Messier Tidy Upper, and Richard Drumm:
    YES, we absolutely plan to make an electronic version of the book freely available, and this is a great idea for reaching certain demographics. The thing we are concerned about is that a HUGE fraction of the rural kids we’re working with just don’t have internet access at home. We would much rather but a real physical book in their hands that they can curl up with and dream.

    We would also love to do other languages, but every different version has a big cost overhead, and we’re trying to keep that low for the moment (but if money fall in our lap, we know how to use it quickly and efficiently!).

    AND we would be thrilled to get a copy of this book to every single kid in the country if we could, especially those areas with large Hispanic populations. After overhead, it will cost ~$2 per book to print. We are only limited by money :)

  13. @ Messier Tidy Upper
    Are you offering to translate the book for us ;-)?
    We’ve talked about doing other languages – and through personal contacts have some other translators for other disadvantaged regions. The focus on Spanish is partially because so many of the most phenomenal astronomical facilities (and astronomical talent) are located in Spanish speaking areas of the world (Arizona, Canary Islands and Chile being some major examples). We have friends and colleagues at these locations that can help us spread the book.

    @Richard Drumm
    We’ll get it in the hands of every kid in the country – we just need more money, more time and to finish our theses in there somewhere!

  14. It seems that it would be better to go with more states than just Virginia


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