Astronomy Education for Youth – Ensuring all youth have the opportunity to be inspired by studying the stars.
Astronomy is considered by many to be a gateway science owing to its ability to inspire curiosity in everyone irrespective of age, culture, or general inclination towards science. Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO), run by Valley of the Moon Observatory Association, delivers public star parties to the community, offers astronomy-based classes and events, and leads private programs at the observatory, many of which are for youth-related non-profit organizations such as girl scouts, boy scouts, and schools. RFO also facilitates the Striking Sparks program, a competition that has awarded telescopes for 37 years to Sonoma County students to promote science education and interest in astronomy. Lastly, our Young Astronomers program works with local libraries to educate and inspire students who are interested in astronomy.
When the Robert Ferguson Observatory suddenly (due to the pandemic) found itself without the income from public and private events which it relied on for most of its financial obligations, the organization quickly shifted to minimize monetary losses. One of those decisions was to increase the costs of both public and private events. However, given our mission of offering educational programs about science and astronomy to students, we decided to keep our public programs at very low-cost, especially for children and students through college-age. (We also offer discounts to seniors 62+). We seek additional funding that will help underwrite this cost, to enable us to continue providing educational services for free to youth of all socio-economic backgrounds in our community.
GoFundMe donations will enable the Robert Ferguson Observatory to continue to provide educational astronomy-based programs at very low-cost to youth and low-income individuals and families. It will also allow RFO to give low-income individuals and families free admission through the Museums for All program. There are many children in our community who have never visited a planetarium or observatory before, and the experience of, for example, seeing Saturn for the first time through a telescope is an awe-inspiring moment for both children and adults that can encourage a life-long love of learning about the universe.