Overview of the project

Project title: Astronomy for the extremely ill or traumatically injured children and their families, USA
Project leader: Dr. Donald Lubowich

The purpose of this project is to provide telescope observations and astronomy demonstrations for children, their siblings and adult family members staying at the Ronald McDonald Houses (RMH) of Chicagoland (RMH-Chicago) in conjunction the children’s surgery and medical treatments at nearby hospitals. The project will provide an educational out-of-this world diversion from the stress of being sick or of having a sick family member hospitalized. Effectiveness of this project will also be tested prior to the submisison of a large-scale grant for multiple RMHs.

The RMHs are a “home away from home” for families of critically ill or traumatically injured children undergoing medical treatment in nearby hospitals. They provide a comfortable, supportive alternative atmosphere to expensive hotels where family members can sleep, eat, relax and find support from other families in similar situations. Families are kept united at a time when mutual support is often as critical as the medical treatment itself. The ill children and their families may stay for a few days but some will stay for months because of chemotherapy, dialysis, or rehabilitative therapy. There are now 250 RMHs in the US and 60 in other countries.

The telescope observations and hands-on astronomy demonstrations will provide a unique family learning experience. Innovative edible demonstrations using chocolate, marshmallows, and popcorn will be used to present astronomy and space science concepts to enhance learning and achieve a greater educational impact. The program includes activities specially designed for ages ranging from elementary school to high school along with the adult family members. Because the families come from across the US, they will be given information about local science museums, and local astronomy clubs (with free or low-cost memberships).

Astronomical demonstrations will be conducted using telescope observations of the Sun, Moon, planets, stars, and nebulae in conjunction with astronomical demonstrations and family activities. An imager will be used so the children can take their own astronomical images. The activities include both daytime and nighttime activities and are designed for all weather and all ages. Galieloscope and IYA2009, ASP project Astro and ASP Family Astro activities will be used.

The RMH-Chicago education staff will be trained to use: easy to operate go-to telescope to take advantage of clear weather and interesting celestial events; Stellarium to show the sky; Astronomy or Sky and Telescopes Magazine sites to find out about astronomical events; and demonstration materials.

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