Debra Lazar-Pearl, a mom in Hinsdale, has hit upon a way to get kids to spend time with their families, learn more about science and explore the wonders of the universe all at once: Have families explore the cosmos.
As a member of the Hinsdale Public Library Foundation, an avid fan of astronomy and a volunteer at the Adler Planetarium, Lazar-Pearl merged her interests to found a popular program called Astronomy Night.
One Friday a month, the library dims its lights and brings out its telescope at 7 p.m. Four or five volunteers—including Lazar-Pearl’s daughter, Marcella Pearl, 12—bring their own telescopes and help others find celestial sites such as the moon or Saturn.
Telescope viewing depends on good weather, but the learning goes on inside, rain or shine. There are astronomy crafts or activities (some of which are provided by NASA), refreshments and a slide show featuring pictures, such as those from the Hubble Space Telescope.
On the most recent event, a rainy evening in November, Darby Moran, 9, learned how telescope lenses work. “I liked using lenses to make my own telescope,” says the Hinsdale youth.
Gabi Seo, 6, agreed as she viewed an object that definitely wasn’t out of this world—a local barber shop sign. “I liked looking through the telescope,” Gabi says. “I learned you see things upside down in a telescope.”
Jo Ann Schusterich, the library’s marketing administrator, says the free events have attracted as many as 300 visitors.
Lazar-Pearl says the program is so popular because astronomy offers something for everyone. “Whether you are a visual person or whether you have an interest in history or math, astronomy encompasses so many areas of interest,” she says.
It also is ageless. My daughters, ages 2 and 6, love our visits. When we returned home after the November event, my 2-year-old was shocked, “Mommy, the stars came to my house too!”
Astronomy Nights are Feb. 11, March 11 and April 15 and run from 7 to 10 p.m.
To learn more, visit www.hplfoundation.org or call (630) 986-1976. In addition to the Hinsdale program, the Naperville Astronomical Association (www.naperastro.org) and the Downers Grove Sidewalk Astronomy Club (www.sidewalk-astronomy-club.com) allow the public to use telescopes. And the Adler Planetarium (www.adlerplanetarium.org) has telescope viewing on the first Friday of each month while the Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College in River Grove (www.triton.edu/cernan) offers monthly skywatch programs one Saturday a month.