Step-by-step: stargazing and space fundraiser
Want an event that's truly out of this world? A space
evening makes a great event for the whole family, and it's
reassuringly educational too. Add in a stargazing element, and it's
a way to get outside in the darker months.
Three months before:
Agree on a date with the school. As it will be an after-school
event, ensure a keyholder will be on site.
Book the facilities and people who will make up your event. If
it's a planetarium, make sure you have room for it, or call in some
experts to speak about space.
Source any equipment you may need, such as telescopes.
Two months before:
Plan the activities you're going to have at your event - seek
inspiration from Pinterest. If they involve recycled materials, set
up collection points and appeal to parents to donate their
One month before:
Publicise the event on posters, noticeboards and newsletters.
Sell tickets via your usual channels. If you have hired a
planetarium, allocate visitors time slots to experience it.
Appeal for volunteers: 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 you're providing food and
refreshments, a few volunteers will be needed to serve them.
Two weeks before:
Prepare an information sheet for the participants. You might
want to include a map of the school showing where activities are
located and including timings of talks and demonstrations.
One week before:
Run your final appeal for volunteers and ensure there are enough
people for each job.
On the day:
Supervise erection of the planetarium. Set up any activities and
After the event:
Hold a post-event debrief to discuss what worked well and what
needs tweaking for next time. Thank your volunteers and ask for
feedback. Tell your community how much was raised and how it will
Tips and advice
To stargaze, it needs to be dark early enough for children to
attend, which makes it an ideal event for October to mid-March -
your event can only last from sunset until bedtime. If you'd rather
hold it at a different time of year or earlier in the day, you
could focus the event around the planetarium and space-themed
activities and remove the stargazing element.
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 (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.
Supplementary activities will give visitors more to do,
especially little ones who won't want to stare at the sky in the
cold for too long. It's also a good back up in case it's too cloudy
to do any stargazing. Activities may include experiments, craft or
junk modelling activities, demonstrations, space quizzes, or even a
space-themed treasure hunt in the dark.
When you send out letters promoting the event, provide a list of
items for guests to bring, such as torches and folding chairs. 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. Make it clear to
parents that they're responsible for their children and that they
shouldn't be left unsupervised.
Make it clear what will be on sale at the event so that people
know whether to bring their own refreshments or enough cash to buy
what you have on offer.
Decide what refreshments to offer: hot chocolate will be
especially welcome on a cold evening. If you want to sell mulled
wine, remember that a TEN licence will be required. Are you
providing food? Keep it simple with hotdogs, or continue your
astronomical theme with star-shaped biscuits.
Raffles and prize draws are a good way to make extra money.
'Our space evening raised over £800'
'We had previously held a "Star Night", where families took part
in space-themed activities and used telescopes to observe the night
sky. The event sold out, so it seemed a good idea to run something
similar this year - only bigger and better!
We applied for a grant from the Institute of Physics, and were
awarded £600 to cover the cost of the event, which we christened
"Mars and the Stars", held from 5:30 to 8:30pm one evening in
March. One of our committee members is a Doctor of astrophysics, so
she did the majority of the planning and preparation.
The grant enabled us to hire a pop-up planetarium for the event
from Creative Space (creative-space.org.uk), which
came complete with a very knowledgeable lady who gave six half-hour
presentations about the solar system. We also ran some drop-in
activities: to make a Martian atmosphere in a bottle; create a Mars
lander out of recycling; and make a rocket to launch on the
playground. We set up a planets treasure hunt, and a local
astronomy enthusiast came along to talk about observing the night
sky (it was too cloudy to actually see the stars, sadly).
Mars and the Stars was publicised on our PTA Facebook group,
using posters on the school driveway and in a letter sent home with
the children. Tickets were sold in advance, and when people booked
they nominated which time they wanted to attend the planetarium
show. Space in the planetarium was limited to 30 people per
session. We charged £5 per head for tickets, for adults and
On the afternoon of the event, Creative Space set up the
planetarium in the KS1 hall, while our volunteer helpers setup the
experiments and activities. On arrival, participants were given
wristbands showing their planetarium timeslot, and an information
sheet showing where the activities were located.
We sold glowsticks, and hot and cold drinks, and raised a total
of £826.41. We received some amazing feedback from parents, many of
whom commented that there was so much to see and do, they had to
tear their kids away at bedtime.'
Sarah Everson, secretary, Friends of Halsford Park
Primary, East Grinstead, West Sussex (415 pupils)
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