Sunday, February 22, 2015

Getting in the Spirit!

This was a happening week, abbreviated though it was (4 school days thanks to President's Day). Every year my school has a fundraising event commonly called a jogathon. Well, at Pine View it is Peramathon. It is held on a Friday in February (this year that would be this week just past) and this year it was COLD, the coldest peramathon anyone could remember. I did not participate but many did. The campus was filled with parents and other family members volunteering to keep track of all the laps run and funds pledged, bottles of water and help with the general organized chaos. Lots of people. Good times.

On that same Friday the high school classes have a dodge ball competition. This is the finale to Spirit Week. Each day students are to dress according to a different theme (e.g. superhero, tacky tourist, and similar). Many choose not to but enough do that it is definitely noticeable as you walk the campus and see the students as they enter class. The learning environment is slightly altered but you adjust.

Then Friday evening we had a fundraising concert to benefit Jamie Myers, a senior who is battling brain cancer. I did not attend but from videos posted online and descriptions from students in attendance, it was a great time. When the things we take for granted every day are suddenly taken, we take a closer look and if we are made of the right stuff, it draws us together, uniting our hearts and spirits. Jamie has done that for his class and our school.

As full as it already was the weekend was not over. Saturday evening we had Astronomy night. The astronomy classes have star gazes regularly throughout the year, but once a year I open it up to the Pine View family and friends. This is scheduled months in advance and all I can do is hope for clear skies and decent temperatures. Well this year the temperature was great. The skies were less cooperative. There were several objects of interest to see in the sky: the crescent moon, Venus and Mars is conjunction, Jupiter and its 4 main moons, the Orion nebula and other lesser lights.

Saturday started clear but clouds moved in as the sun was about to set. As the skies darkened, we were struggling to find clear spots between the clouds to glimpse the heavens. With a great turnout I was hopeful that they would be able to see something. We did have minutes when the clouds parted enough to see the moon, Venus, Mars and Jupiter, but not much else. After an hour or so of this, a clear spot appeared low in the south (thank you, Steve Dacey, for spotting it first.). That was good news, since the clouds were moving north. It took 20 minutes or so for the hole to pass over head and as the skies cleared, a cheer went up from those who had been able to stay. We had about 20 minutes to a half hour of clear skies. Many had left but those who remained were rewarded with excellent views through the seven telescopes and viewing stations we had set up. At the very end, as I started to take down the equipment, a particularly enthusiast boy ask if there were any other planets we could see. Yes, Uranus. But I warned him that it was not big and bright like Jupiter or Venus, or even Mars, but he was insistent.  I set the scope on it and it was there: a tiny (3 arc seconds in diameter), faint, pale blue-green dot, twenty times as far from us as earth is from the sun. Not much to look at but I told everyone there that now, when they talked to their family and friends, they could say that they have seen Uranus. It got a small laugh.

I was so happy we had not been shutout. This was my final Astronomy Night as a teacher and it ended well. Many thanks to those who came and for the students who helped setup and take down. Also to Mr. Steve Dacey for manning the big dobsonian telescope. M42 was a grand sight through it.

My final thoughts revolve around this blog and the future. Another mark along the way. If you look at the main page of this blog, it has a countdown clock. As of today, Sunday, February 22, 2015, I am down to double digits left in my teaching career: 99 days. As I like to say, Tempus fidgets. The other thing is my upcoming big announcement. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading this.

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