Outreach at schools can be tricky for a number of reasons. Schools are busy places with full teaching programmes and extensive extracurricular programmes. Teachers have a lot on their plates, many of them much more than they can handle. Also remember that Astronomy, as interesting and topical as it may be, is not a school subject although it was a matriculation subject in Cape Schools until 1958. So just getting an opportunity to do outreach at a school is quite an effort.
One needs something like the National Science Week, or an eclipse, to create the gap and even then it is by no means plain sailing. If one can find a teacher who is enthusiastic or, often even better still, a parent or two, one has really struck gold.
Even once one is given the opportunity it is not all plain sailing, because very often classes attend these sessions because they have to and not because they want to: pretty much like the Press Gang system operated by the British Navy long, long ago.
There is, however, something especially rewarding about the look of amazement and wonder on a learner’s face when he or she looks through a telescope at the moon for the first time. They look, long and hard, then stand back, eye the moon and bend down to the eyepiece for a second look, before finally standing back and say “Wow!”
All schools, please note that we want to show you guys all this amazing stuff and we want to be contacted – please!