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Step by step guide: stargazing evening

Want an event that's truly out of this world? The BBC's Stargazing LIVE team are eager to encourage more schools to join in with their annual programme. For an extra-stellar evening, get their 'Event Pack' for some great activities and resources.

Thousands of stargazing events have taken place as part of Stargazing LIVE, bringing together schools, astronomical societies, museums and discovery centres - all contributing to a national stargazing celebration! A stargazing evening makes a great event for the whole family, and it's reassuringly educational too! BBC Learning have some fabulous resources including activity cards - such as make your own mini planetarium - and teacher packs with worksheets. These will be invaluable if the weather's against you and you're driven indoors!

Planning

  • Most importantly you'll need an expert! If you don't have a suitable volunteer, then contact the Federation of Astronomical Societies, who have details of groups across the UK. Visit fedastro.org.uk/fas/.

  • Work with your expert to understand what equipment is required and who will provide it. Check your PTA insurance summary to see what is covered. Where other organisations (paid or otherwise) are bringing equipment, they must have their own insurance cover in place.Ask them to provide a copy of this prior to the event.

  • Send out letters promoting your event (and to sell tickets). Provide a list of items which your guests need to bring - torches, folding chairs etc. Make it clear that anyone bringing their own telescopes or binoculars does so at their own risk. Have some red cellophane on hand to stick over torches, minimising light pollution.

  • Start inside with some facts and figures about the Solar System. Download a Stargazing LIVE event pack which includes some great content and safety instructions. Other activity packs are also available to download on their website. Use the BBC learning guides to set up indoor activities for children - little ones won't stare at the sky in the cold for too long!

Refreshments

  • Decide what refreshments to offer - tea, coffee and soft drinks. Or you may want to offer mulled wine, but remember that a licence will be required if selling alcohol.

  • Do you want to provide food? This could be something as simple as hotdogs, or continue your astronomical theme and offer star-shaped biscuits.

Costs/revenue

  • Events using BBC resources must be free to attend. You can charge to cover costs, eg. guest speakers, but not to fundraise.

  • Raffles and prize draws are a good way to make money.

  • Hot drinks (including mulled wine) will help keep your guests warm and will boost revenue.

Volunteers needed

  • You'll need a few volunteers to check tickets on arrival, help set up and clear away, and to organise activities for the children.

  • If providing food and refreshments, you'll need a few people to help serve these.

  • Make it clear to parents that they're responsible for their children and that they shouldn't be left unattended.

Publicity

  • Publicise the event on posters, notice boards, newletters etc.

  • If your event is open to the wider community then promote it on the BBC's 'Things To Do' website - bbc.co.uk/thingstodo.

CASE STUDY: STARGAZING EVENING

Lynne McFarlane, chair, Loseley Fields Primary School, Surrey (274 pupils) told us about her fantastic stargazing evening: 'In September 2012, classes in our 274-strong primary were renamed after constellations. What better way to launch this than to blast off with an astronomical event? A parent friend introduced me to local organisation, Astronomy 4 Everyone, who really made the idea fly. They supplied telescopes, knowledge and enthusiasm, leaving the Friends to organise a BBQ, refreshments, raffle and junk-modelling (extending the event for younger children). We piggy-backed the BBC's Stargazing LIVE programme, listing the event on their website beforehand and accessing free resources. We created an event on Facebook, put posters up locally and one of the astronomers ran a school assembly. The main concerns were weather and overcrowding. The risk assessment boiled down to having a good parking plan (we used our local football club) and helpers at the gates monitoring numbers. On the night, Jupiter and its moons appeared from behind the cloud. We had a good turnout from the local community and the head received many positive comments from staff and parents. We made about £380 and followed up by sending details to the local paper. We found new friends in the stargazing community and hope to do it again.'

The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.


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