GARDNER — Curiosity shined at the Boys & Girls Club of Gardner during a visit this week from the Aldrich Astronomical Society and the Mount Wachusett Community College Astronomy Club.
A variety of topics were discussed as students from the Boys & Girls Club, who are in grades five through eight, got to ask questions on everything from black holes, why Saturn has rings and why Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet. They also got to check out a few telescopes.
“It was interesting, fun and cool,” sixth-grader Sophia Finn said.
Seventh-grader Emily Collins said she is “big time” into astronomy and one of the things she has learned about is the science behind why stars shine as a light in the night sky.
The Boys & Girls Club is held every day after school at Gardner High School.
The astronomy presentation was part of the club’s participation in the inaugural statewide STEM week that was declared by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito for Oct. 22-26 to promote education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and highlights its impact on the economy.
The Aldrich Astronomical Society is based in Paxton. President
One of the things he spoke of is the work of Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei who in the 1600s invented his own telescope.Zebrowski talked to the students about telescopes, saying that is a basic introduction to astronomy.
“He was widely recognized for taking that next step with telescopes,” Zebrowski said.
Zebrowski said with his telescope, Galilei was able to discover the craters and mountains on the moon, and confirmed the theory of Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus that the earth and other planets revolve around the sun, which challenged the commonly held view at the time that the earth was at the center of the universe.
Also taking part in the event from the Aldrich Astronomical Society was member Jim Erickson, who said he also founded the Mount Wachusett Community College Astronomy Club while a student there.
The college club was represented by President Ashley Auger, Ali Guthrie and Ethan Williams.
The college students helped with answering questions from the Boys & Girls Club members and also talked about their interest in astronomy.
“I love the stars. I love the universe. It’s a really magnificent thing,” Williams said.
Volunteer Coordinator Kelly Hartnett said as part of STEM Week, the Gardner students will also go to the Boys & Girls Club facility in Leominster to take part in a career expo.
She said the entire week is designed to make the STEM subjects relatable to the students.
“Hopefully it sparks interest,” she said.
Isaiah Jasmin, team leader for the club, said the club wants to “erase the stigma” associated with STEM subjects, commenting that students often think they are difficult to understand and as a result can be discouraged from pursuing them.
“We can make it fun and light beyond the school walls,” he said. “It’s more exciting that way.”
A main reason behind the Baker-Polito administration initiating the statewide STEM Week is to hopefully bridge the gap between the available jobs in STEM fields and the number of people interested in pursuing those careers.
According to a press release from the administration, only one in six American high school seniors say they are interested in studying STEM subjects in college, and U.S. industries are projected to demand more workers with STEM backgrounds than the nation’s educational system will generate.