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    Cernan Earth and Space Center

    Telescope Loan Program

    The Cernan Earth and Space Center of Triton College continues to offer its telescope loan program, whereby teachers of grades 5 through 12 can borrow a telescope for two months of classroom usage at no cost to them or their school. For more information about how your school or group can participate, please read the following letter:

    Dear Educator or Group Leader,

    The Cernan Earth and Space Center of Triton College offers a unique opportunity for teachers of grades 5 through 12 to borrow a telescope for two months of classroom usage at no cost to the teacher or the school. During that two month period, you’ll have the opportunity to introduce your students to the basics of telescopes and astronomy, as well as offering them safe viewing of the sun by day and the moon, planets and other celestial objects by night.

    In late 2003, the Cernan Earth and Space Center of Triton College received a three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to develop a new initiative titled Touch the Sky, which provides a range of astronomy and Earth science lessons and life experiences to underprivileged nonprofit groups, including K-12 schools, day care centers and senior citizen groups. The goal of this portion of the grant – the telescope loan program – is to further student interest in astronomy and provide a hands-on demonstration of the scientific process through student and teacher usage of telescopes.

    The telescopes for this program are specially selected for their quality, simplicity and ease of use. Each telescope is a 6-inch reflecting telescope on a simple "Dobsonian" mount, which can easily be maneuvered to any object in the sky with two simple motions – up and down (altitude) and left and right (azimuth). Reflecting telescopes provide the greatest amount of light-gathering ability for the money. Each telescope’s 6-inch mirror gathers 6.5 times more light than the commonly found 60 mm refracting telescope and nearly twice as much light as a comparably outfitted 4.5 inch reflecting telescope. Each telescope comes with a full aperture solar filter, which securely fits to the front of the telescope tube. This solar filter allows for safe viewing of the sun, enabling teachers and students to observe and track the growth and movement of sunspots and related solar features. A sturdy, padded nylon case provides protection to the telescope during transport to and from the Cernan Center.

    To ensure that each participating teacher is familiar with the operation of the telescope, they will be required to attend a one-hour telescope training session prior to their loan period. Conducted late one weekday afternoon each month, each training session will review the basic operation of the telescope, the "dos and don’ts" of its usage, and introduce the training materials that will be provided to each participating teacher. These training materials, which each teacher will keep for their future classroom use, will include a brief Telescope Training Manual, which provides basic information about the telescope’s operation and a brief introduction to telescopes in general. A list of Internet resources also will be provided to ensure that students may continue their astronomy and science education long after the loaner telescope has been returned.

    Groups interested in participating in the Touch the Sky telescope loan program should submit a letter on their organization’s stationery stating their interest in participation. All letters should be sent to:
    Bart Benjamin
    Cernan Earth and Space Center
    Triton College
    2000 Fifth Avenue
    River Grove, IL 60171

    Letters of application also may be faxed to the Cernan Center office at (708) 583-3153.

    Preferential treatment will be given to schools within the Triton College district and teachers in underprivileged schools. If your request is approved, you will be contacted by the Cernan Center to make specific arrangements to borrow a telescope. Although we will attempt to serve as many requests as possible, the program is limited and must be offered on a first-come, first served basis. Participation in the program costs nothing, but each approved participant (and their school) will be held liable for the cost of the telescope if lost or damaged while in their possession. Each participating teacher also must sign a waiver holding Triton College harmless for any injuries caused by the misuse of the telescope while in their possession.

    If you have any questions about our Touch the Sky program, please call me at (708) 456-0300, Ext. 3408. For more general information about the Cernan Center, its programs, field trips or events, please call our Program Line a (708) 583-3100 or visit the Cernan Center’s Web site at www.triton.edu/cernan.

    Bart Benjamin
    Director, Cernan Earth and Space Center

    To download the same training materials that will be distributed at our Touch the Sky telescope training sessions, please click here.

    The supporting grant for Touch the Sky is a 2003 Learning Opportunities Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which is an independent federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners. The Institute fosters leadership, innovation and a lifetime of learning by supporting the nation's 15,000 museums and 122,000 libraries. Grants are awarded to all types of museums, from anthropological to zoological, fine art and planetarium, urban and rural, large and small.