In late 2014, I undertook an initiative to place telescopes in Prince Edward Island schools where there was adequate interest in having a junior astronomy club. This is the final project summary.
Through the cooperation of donors Mrs. Cyrilla Saunders, V.P. CIBC Wood-Gundy, Dr. Marnie Hopson and Maritime Electric Ltd., and with local fundraising by telescope sales and a raffle, I was able to raise sufficient funds to buy several six-inch Dobsonian telescopes. Due to a shipping error, we received eight inch telescopes, a fact only discovered later.
After canvassing many schools and doing a number of presentations, I was successful in placing these quality telescopes in three schools, Queen Charlotte Intermediate School in Charlottetown, Gulf Shore Consolidated School in North Rustico and Montague Intermediate School in Montague.
Key to the successful integration of the telescopes was the active participation of students and especially, teachers. A model was suggested based on experience elsewhere which incorporated stargazing and some outreach activity. In the first year, all three schools were active in astronomy. I visited and participated in events in all three schools and the interest was clearly evident.
I understand however that interest may have waned a bit in the second year, mostly due to the availability of teachers. This was one of the risks which were well understood before embarking on this initiative. Whether the school astronomy clubs rebound is entirely dependent upon the students and teachers.
Nevertheless, I consider the project a success as all three areas have a demostrated increased interest in astronomy. Obviously I would have preferred more schools participating, but it was not due to lack of effort in trying to interest them in the project.
Perhaps the experience will deepen the interest and passion for science of those who did look into the cosmos.