Article by Kevin Kawai
The LeRoy Haynes Center, located in La Verne, CA, has been helping children with special needs relating to specialized treatments for emotional and behavioral development, learning disabilities, pervasive developmental disabilities, autism, and more since 1946. The Center is one of the largest nonprofit organizations of its kind in the State of California and includes a State Certified Non-Public School with the goal of providing its students with the necessary skills to make a smooth transition into mainstream life. With a wide variety of enrichment filled courses revolving around the arts, community service, computers, drama, music, team sports, and even science, the students are provided with the education, guidance, support and structure in order to help them achieve their goals and reach their full potentials in life.
Recently, the Center's Science class, under the guidance of teacher, Paula Menger, acquired an older Celestron Celestar telescope which was kindly donated from an outside source. Unfortunately, the telescope came with a few missing components which rendered the scope inoperable, to the disappointment of the class. Upon hearing this news, Celestron decided to exchange the telescope for a modern, fully computerized NexStar 6SE. The older model telescope would be returned to Celestron, cleaned up and put on display. Paula invited Celestron to visit the Center to present the telescope to one of the school's top administrators and provide a telescope demonstration for her class.
Upon my arrival to the LeRoy Haynes Center, I met up with Paula and together, we found a nice open spot in a grassy field to set up and conduct the demonstration and presentation. I brought along several types of telescopes including a refractor, reflector and a catadioptric. Although the weather was quite hot, the class didn't seem to mind too much, as most of the students were very eager to learn more about the telescopes. During the demonstration, I spoke about the different characteristics and features of each telescope design. For nearly all the class, this was their first opportunity to ever look through and use telescopes, so the demonstration provided a very educational, yet fun "hands on" learning experience for them. The students eagerly took turns using the manually controlled telescopes to scan the school grounds to spy on their fellow classmates (much to their amusement) and view the neighboring hillsides. Many were quite amazed to find cactus growing amongst the shrubbery and discovered a cell phone tower disguised as a tree. Through the NexStar 6SE, the class viewed the Sun (with a solar filter) and the inner planets Mercury and Venus. I already knew these planets were far enough in their respective orbits from the Sun, so spotting them through the telescope in the bright mid-morning sky was relatively easy. Everyone seemed quite amazed how the NexStar was "smart" enough to find these planets in broad daylight and a few students quickly learned how to operate the hand control just by watching. At the conclusion of the demonstration, I then presented the NexStar 6SE to LeRoy Haynes' Corporate and Foundation Relations Officer, Jane Woods, who along with Paula Menger, graciously accepted on behalf of the Center. We then posed for a few photos, and I was then given a tour of the Science and Autism buildings. A delicious hamburger lunch was on the menu that day inside the Center's cafeteria.
Talks are already underway for possibly conducting a star party that will include the entire school district perhaps later during the year. Paula said "I feel the star party is a great idea that the students would really enjoy and the staff as well." Until then, the Center will be able to spend time and get better acquainted with their new telescope to explore and open up new worlds all around them.
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