Dark Skies Bright Kids is an entirely volunteer-run program out of the UVa Astronomy Department with the core mission of enhancing science education for elementary school students targeted at underserved schools in rural Virginia. The program seeks to foster the natural curiosity of children by helping them to explore the Universe in a social setting with fun, hands-on activities.
The main Goals of DSBK are:
- to illustrate to students that science is a fun, creative, and exciting process;
- to empower students to be curious and to ask questions;
- to help students develop problem-solving skills;
- to demonstrate that science is a viable career path chosen by many diverse individuals;
- to nurture a sense of wonder and awe for the Universe;
- to teach students basic astronomy concepts.
The backbone of the DSBK program is the two-month Astronomy Club that is held at a different elementary school each semester. This long-term commitment enables the volunteers to build meaningful relationships with the students and take learning to a deeper level than is possible with “one-off” events. The director of DSBK, Dr. Kelsey Johnson, compares this process to building a bonfire; if the kindling and wood has already been collected and stacked, simply lighting a match will ignite the fire. However, if the wood hasn’t been collected, or it is rotten or wet, the fire won’t catch without a dedicated effort. The semester-long program is designed to lay the foundation for a life-long interest in science.
In addition, DSBK carries out a variety of activities, including special astronomy days featuring their portable planetarium, family observing nights, and regional star parties, and participation at community-based events (including Kid-Vention, Girl Scout Day at the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory open house). Furthermore, the DSBK volunteers have created a bilingual (Spanish-English) astronomy picture book in effort to reach out to Hispanic communities. DSBK also has a strong social-media presence with a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and YouTube Channel.
Dark Skies Bright Kids is run by volunteers from the University of Virginia. The program is led by professor Kelsey Johnson and has volunteer support from graduate and undergraduate students. These volunteers are the backbone of the program. No astronomy background is required to volunteer with the club!
DSBK in the Media
- Mercury Magazine, Summer 2014
- Dark Skies, Bright Kids - WTJU Soundboard (December 14, 2012)
- Reaching Out - Thesis: A Report from Arts & Sciences (Winter 2012)
- Dark Skies, Bright Kids: Helping young students reach for the stars - Virginia Magazine (Winter 2012)
- Dark Skies, Bright Kids - WINA Morning News (August 17, 2012)
- Portable Universe: Dark Skies, Bright Kids Program - NBC29 (February 1, 2012)
- Interview with Kelsey Johnson - Arts & Sciences Magazine (Fall 2011)
- Star Gazing Party Teaches Students About Astronomy - CBS19 (August 19, 2011)
- Astronomy Book for Every 3rd Grade Class in VA - NBC29 (September 9,2010)
- U.Va. Astronomer, Students Create Book on Universe for Schoolkids - UVa Today (September 2, 2010)
- 2010 Space Odyssey: Inside the Dark Skies, Bright Kids Program - Albemarle Family (September 1, 2010; pg 52-61)
- A click a day helps astronomers help kids - Bad Astronomy (September 1, 2010)
- Astronomy Beyond Belief - Podcast Beyond Belief (August 9, 2010)
- Dark Skies, Bright Kids - 365 Days of Astronomy - DSBK Edition (June 7, 2010)
- Speaking Up - Noisy Astronomer Nicole Gugliucci with 'Dark Skies, Bright Kids' - Skeptically Speaking (May 21, 2010)
- Unveiling a Comet's Dirty Little Secret - Discovery News (April 28, 2010)
- Ten Things You Don't Know about Comets - Bad Astronomy Blog (April 20, 2010)
- Astronomy Professor Pilots New Club for Rural Elementary Children - UVa Today (October 14, 2009)