Susan Murabana /The Traveling Telescope / The Travelling Telescope brings stars to students

by By Ryan Lenora Brown Staff writer @ryanlenorabrown from Johannesburg

145748Courtesy of The Travelling TelescopeA student at Ololomei Primary School in Maasai Mara, Kenya, looks through a Dobsonian telescope during a school workshop with The Travelling Telescope.

May 12, 2021

Susan Murabana’s traveling telescope began with a simple revelation: We all have access to the sky.

We all see the same moon. We all look up at the same night sky splattered with stars.

At the same time, she knew that access wasn’t created equal. Telescopes have been around for 400 years, but most children in Kenya, where Ms. Murabana is from, had never looked through one.

She thought she could change that.

In 2014, she and her partner bought a telescope and started carting it around Kenya to show kids what the stars looked like up close. Today, The Travelling Telescope program has reached 200,000 kids, by their count, and won the Europlanet Prize for Public Engagement for its efforts to make the night sky accessible to all. The couple have built a permanent planetarium made from bamboo in their backyard in Nairobi. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has pivoted to teach kids about space and rockets online, offering workshops on 3D modeling and astronomy to local schoolchildren – who have been in and out of classrooms as lockdowns squeeze and loosen.

“It’s never been about these kids becoming astronomers – but it’s about all the different things astronomy can teach,” Ms. Murabana says. “There’s engineering and geology and math, and there’s also just an opportunity to question, to inquire, and to be creative.”

On a recent morning, a dozen kids between the ages of 9 and 16 watched attentively as Ms. Murabana and Chu Owen – her partner in astronomy education and in life – presented, along with their colleague Ronald Wasilwa, how to build a 3D model of a rocket using an online design platform.

“Can I share a fun fact I know about airplanes?” one student interrupts, and then before receiving an answer continues. “They’re like buses in the sky.”

Written in the stars?

Page created on 10/17/2021 7:36:00 PM

Last edited 10/29/2022 4:25:43 PM

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