By Robert Ade, Chabot Space & Science Center
I have to confess, I was never really interested in science as a student. Then, one might ask, how did I wind up working at a space and science center? The answer is simple—I was instantly inspired by what I saw through giant, historic telescopes. From my first gaze at the cosmos, I decided I wanted to start learning about astronomy and never stop. Like the old Hollies song says, “Just one look…that’s all it took!” Now, I happily get to share my excitement with others.
Recent studies indicate that a majority of our schools are not teaching science adequately. Reasons for this are numerous, but personally, I believe education must begin with inspiration. Being able to build inspiration is the best part of my job. I work at the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California, where we have an observatory with world-class telescopes that are open to the public, free of charge. Every Friday and Saturday evening, weather permitting, the telescopes bring the wonders of the universe to students of all ages. My 9-year-old son recently looked at Saturn through a 128-year-old telescope and was immediately wowed. I began to wonder how many thousands of kids have had the same reaction over the years, looking through the same magnificent telescope.
Taking advantage of the longer summer days, Chabot Space & Science center gives us the opportunity to safely observe a nearby star¬—our dynamic Sun—without staying up past our bedtime. Our solar telescopes allow visitors to view prominences dancing off the Sun’s surface. Other instruments on our observatory deck let you observe the Sun and its Earth-sized sun spots, which are caused by magnetic storms on its surface. An additional exhibit displays mesmerizing high definition video of the solar flares blasting from the edge of our active Sun.
Our newer, down-to-earth exhibition allows visitors to become climate scientists at Bill Nye’s Climate Lab. At different stations, clean energy solutions are discovered using a customized Climate Scout ID badge. Bill Nye’s hilarious brand of science education explains how climate scientists use tools to study our planet and its changing atmosphere, and the Climate Lab uses positive messages to increase climate literacy¬—all with the lofty goal to change the world! With some inspiration, anyone can change the world through science—but how?
Ask questions. Talk to people. Visit a science center and start a conversation. Here’s something I like to teach kids (or adults!) who come into the Chabot Space & Science center: understand what a light-year is then teach it to someone else. Pass it along. Join or start a science club at your school or neighborhood. Open your mind and explore the possibilities of sharing science with the universe. Most importantly, make a decision to start learning and never stop.
Robert Ade is the Communications and Media Coordinator for Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, California. A former network news producer, he’s opted for the slower pace of looking light-years into space and showing people amazing things through telescopes. The telescopes at Chabot Space & Science Center are open to the public every Friday and Saturday evening, weather permitting. For more information, visit www.ChabotSpace.org