AstroCamp offers many fun, exciting, and educational physical science classes that allow students to explore science in an engaging and hands-on way. These classes are an excellent accompaniment to the recent national focus on teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in our schools. Check out the descriptions of our great classes below.
Astronomy – Space Night (Evening Program)
Space night is our signature evening program. It consists of two distinct parts: a mini night hike and telescope viewing. Groups depart for a short walk on a nearby trail as darkness arrives. The hike includes sensory-awareness games, stories, stargazing, and demonstrations of our ability to adjust to darkness. Groups will then go to one of our two fully-equipped telescope viewing areas to take advantage of two of AstroCamp’s best assets: our array of excellent viewing instruments and Idyllwild’s beautiful, clear skies. Assigned their own portion of the viewing area, each group has at their disposal: five binoculars, a massive 12″ Dobsonian telescope, and a computerized Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT) of either 10″ or 12″ diameter.
Atmosphere and Gases
This is hands-on science at its most exciting. In this lab, students will learn about planetary atmospheres and changes in states of matter as they experiment with pressure, temperature, density, and other gas properties. Then, they will form hypotheses and follow the scientific method through to discover the answers. This class is full of interactive experiments and dramatic results. This is our most requested class and is always a favorite because students get to blow stuff up in the name of science!
In order to prepare for the sensation of weightlessness in space, astronauts first practice their missions in a giant tank of water known as the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. We at AstroCamp do the same. In this activity students will experience this feeling of near-weightlessness as they undergo their own “mission” in our indoor pool. After the “mission” has been completed the students will discuss how this activity might compare to a real space mission. Topics of conversation may include the difficulties of a frictionless environment, teamwork, and astronaut life.
Electricity & Magnetism
The room is dark. Suddenly, 300,000 volts explode through the air…Welcome to Electricity and Magnetism. Instructors lead students in using a giant Van de Graff generator, a resonance transformer, and over twenty other experiments to discover the principles of static, current, voltage, amperes, conductivity, magnetism, and resistance. They even get a chance to observe superconductive materials cooled down to negative 320 degrees!
Lights & Lasers
In Lights and Lasers, students explore the nature of visible, infra-red, ultraviolet light and even the science that makes things glow in the dark. Our labs include infrared cameras, spectrum glasses, modulated lasers, and an entire phosphorescent wall! At the end, students can rock out with one of our famous laser parties and explore everything in the lab.
Building and Launching Rockets (2 class periods)
In this class, one of our most popular, students will begin by learning about forces and Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion. Students will then use their new knowledge of how motion works to create their own rockets out of a two-liter bottle. During the second class period, students will launch their rockets using water and pressurized air on our specially designed rocket launching field. Each student will control his or her own pressurization and launching process from our customized launch consol. Students, with the help of our instructors, will use their new found knowledge to determine the height of each rocket’s flight.
The history of space exploration has been an exciting roller coaster of ups and downs! From the first successful manned missions to the recent journeys, students will get a brief overview of where we’ve been and where we’re going. Students will design and build their own “cosmic landers” out of a variety of provided materials. Finally, students will crash test their landers on one of our three simulated planetary surfaces.
Astrocamp’s indoor planetarium is an awesome opportunity to experience our universe even during the daytime. Students are introduced to a clear view of the constellations in the night sky. They will learn both the science behind many of the things in our night sky, but also many of the myths that affected what we call these stars and constellations today. The planetarium program can be accompanied with a variety of supplementary activities. In the nearby Vortex Room, students can learn about Einstein’s description of gravity with the Vortex Table. Students can also learn about the phases of the moon and may have the opportunity to create their very own star charts.
Learn about the structure and physics of the sun and safely view sunspots, prominences, and other solar features through telescopes using special solar filters. In addition, learn about solar energy through hands-on experiments involving solar cells, ovens, water heaters, and more. The Solar class concludes with a little treat: solar cookies that have been cooking in the Sun Ovens.
Students learn about comets, asteroids, and meteorites and even get to simulate impact craters! Then they hunt for micrometeorites all over camp with powerful magnets. Each student uses their own microscope to sift through the magnetic particles they collected, searching for their personal piece of the solar system that they can take home!
In our Planets class, students discover the nature of the planets in our solar system and how scientists conduct research to gather information about them. Instructors introduce the basics of planetary geology and discuss why Earth is so well suited for life while hypothesizing what extra-terrestrial life might be like.