If you are a Cub Scout leader who would like to do astronomy with your Pack or Den, the Rappahannock Astronomy Club would be happy to help. Public outreach is an important part of our club purpose. We have years of experience working with Scouts and other community groups, introducing the night sky to children and adults. This group of Web pages contains notes to help amateur astronomers assist Cub Scout groups to do an astronomy program.
The essence of astronomy is getting outside and looking at the night sky. If possible, I prefer to build any astronomy presentation around observing. The sense of wonder at seeing something beautiful that you didn’t know was there is often the beginning of curiosity about an important science and a great hobby. It’s more fun to see than to listen to facts about astronomy. It gives people the actual experience of what astronomy is about.
Rappahannock Astronomy Club offers public star parties through the year. Our parties are free, family-oriented times the public can come and look at the skies with us. We offer views through our own telescopes. We often have Scout groups as guests at these events. These are great opportunities for Scouts and their families to look through a number of different telescopes and see many different sights in space.
We are also happy to arrange for club members to come to your own Pack or Den meeting or other event to introduce your Cubs and families to astronomy. We can bring equipment to observe at your usual meeting place (though we can not bring the number and variety of telescopes that usually appear at the club’s own star parties). And please remember that inclement weather can suddenly cancel any plan for observing the sky.
The Astronomy belt loop, pin, and Space electives also contain knowledge, book work, and projects to make posters about the topics the Scouts learn. We are happy to present this information to your group in a meeting format.
The Astronomy belt loop and pin require more material and study than we (or you) can cover in a typical single meeting. In one evening, we can give you an overview. We will show the Cub Scouts many of the objects in space that the awards require them to learn about. Some boys will complete some requirements during the meeting or star party. There is not enough time in one event for the boys to complete all of the requirements. If you wish, we will be happy to talk with you about follow up events. We will also point you to resources that will help you complete the badge work in your own Den meetings.
Working on the Astronomy academic belt loop
The Astronomy belt loop requires learning a large amount of book knowledge about astronomy. In my experience, younger boys don’t stick with it and learn all the terms unless they have a high interest in astronomy. In addition, this belt loop may be used to satisfy one of the requirements of the Scientist activity badge, which is part of the program for the oldest Cub Scouts, the Webelos rank. If Cubs complete the belt loop earlier in their Cub career, they will need to repeat the work to use it for the Webelos requirement. So, although the Astronomy belt loop is available to all Cub Scouts, I find it works better with the older boys.
A Cub Scout can complete the Astronomy Belt Loop without looking at the sky at all. In my opinion, this award could be improved by swapping one of the observing requirements found in the follow-on Astronomy pin with any one of the requirements of the belt loop. I recommend including observing in your program, even though that will increase the time required for your boys to complete the three requirements of the belt loop.
- Requirement 1: Set up and focus a telescope or binoculars
- This skill is slightly different for each of the many varieties of equipment. We will teach this skill using the equipment present at the time. Each Scout will then need at least 5 minutes to demonstrate he can set up and focus the instrument. Because telescopes are expensive and fragile, experienced adult supervision is essential with each Scout. A large group may use more time than you have available. Because binoculars are simpler instruments than telescopes, we can make this requirement go faster by teaching binoculars. However, many of your boys will be eager to get their hands on telescopes instead.
- Requirement 2: Draw a diagram of our solar system
- We can present the information Cubs need to portray in this diagram. Creating the drawing is best done as a dedicated Den meeting activity, or as homework to bring to a following Den meeting.
- Requirement 3: Explain (a list of 13) terms
- We can present this information, and we will attempt an engaging presentation. Please recognize that this is a lot of book knowledge. Cubs are unlikely to absorb and retain it in a single session. People grasp what the different objects in space are like by actually seeing them, so we show as many of these objects as possible during observing sessions. Your Cubs will probably need to rehearse this material more than once before being able to retain it. For each boy to explain his understanding of 13 terms will probably take more time than you have available in one meeting. Also, a group of more than a few boys will need more time than you have available for each to take a turn looking through a telescope at 13 different objects.
Working on the Astronomy academic pin
The pin is more advanced work for boys with a more serious interest in astronomy. A number of the requirements require research and reading. We can address some of the requirements for you during a Pack or Den event:
- Requirement 1: Draw a diagram of a telescope and explain how it works
- After we introduce the instruments used in an observing session, your Cubs will be able to create the diagram and feed back an explanation to their Den leaders in a later meeting.
- Requirement 2: Locate and identify five constellations
- During an observing session, we will show the boys the major constellations.
- Requirement 3: Using a telescope, find at least one planet
- During an observing session, we will show how to find the visible planets. It will require some time for each boy to demonstrate his ability to find a planet on his own.
- Requirement 4: Find the North Star
- During an observing session, we will show the boys how to find this star.
- Requirement 5: Interview an astronomer
- All of the club members who may be present to support your event are amateur astronomers. We will provide question and answer time, and help your Cubs satisfy this requirement.
Working on the Bear Space elective
- Elective a: Identify two constellations and the North Star
- During an observing session, we will show the boys the major constellations and the North Star.
We can provide an overview of the information used in the other requirements and electives, but the boys will have to do additional work outside an introductory event. For many of the requirements they will need to create a poster or bring a report back to a Den meeting.
Thank you for your interest in astronomy. We look forward to working with your Pack or Den. Please contact the Rappahannock Astronomy Club for more information or to schedule support for your scouting activities. The author of these Scout-related pages welcomes comments and feedback on this material.