Joann Ballbach's 
"What's Up?"

An In-house Astronomy Education Program at The Wilderness Center

    Ever wonder what a Wilderness Center In-house Astronomy Education Program is like?

    Joann Ballbach is the The Wilderness Center's Education Director.  She has been with TWC for more than 13 years now and has proven to be a major asset many times over to the Center.  On October 26th from 9:00 am till 2:00 pm (with a half hour break for lunch) Joann served up a neat little planetarium program called appropriately "What's Up".  She offered this four part program to 4 classes of 7th and 8th grade students and their teachers from Central Christian High School.Image #1: an example of Joann's constellation slides.  Joann would describe the constellation using the lower portion of the slide, then with a laser pointer, the students would identify the asterism on the upper slide.

Part 1 - A slide show on the visible planets, Messier objects, and major constellations, followed by a student activity using a laser pointer to identify the asterism just presented on a slide. This was a hit with the kids! They all enjoyed making patterns on the screen with the red laser pointer!

Part 2 - A planetarium tour of the constellations just discussed in the slide show. Also a hit with the kids! They would call-out "show me Aquarius", or "how about Image #2: Joann Ballbach and Carrie Elvey - TWC NaturalistCapricornus", the teacher even got in the act and ask  "can you show me Delphinus".  Joann, like the professional that she is, quickly described the constellation's and then expertly pointed them out on the new Fred F. Silk Planetarium's 5 meter dome.

Part 3 - A brief discussion of getting into astronomy. How to use a planisphere, binoculars, and finally a telescope. What to look for when buying a telescope. The dreaded department store telescope vs. a good quality scope. Joann displayed a $150.00 department store scope and herJoann explaning the operation of the Keller telescope own home made $150.00 Dobsonian reflector made right here at the Wilderness Center Astronomy Club during one of the many club projects. Nice job on the scope Joann! A quick tour of the newly refurbished Dr. Karl W. Keller Telescope along with the Astronomy Education Building observatory roll-off roof (another hit with the kids!) and then outside to get a feel for telescope observing.Joann October 2000

Part 4 - Everyone went outside the Astronomy Education Building to actually look through the telescopes.  A  4 1/2" scope was set up to look at the sun, the other two scopes were there so the students could get a feel for looking through a telescope and experience first hand the inverted images they present.Solar observing

    All this, approximately 80 students in one short mid-morning session, while the parking lot at The Wilderness Center was being repaved plus all the major construction and renovating taking place! Joann just took it all in stride never missed a constellation, never faltered during her talks . . . and never complained once about all the construction noise. On top of all that she tutored TWC's newest Naturalist - Carrie Elvey, shown in image #2 above, so that Carrie can someday present a program just like this one.

    Joann is making a huge chapter in the history books of The Wilderness Center, as one who could and does, perform and serve above and beyond the call of duty.  With thousands and thousands of students and adults served . . . Ray Kroc . . . move over!

    If you want an activity that's educational and entertaining  too, catch one of the Wilderness Center's Astronomy Education Program's presented by Joann. 8th grade from Christian High SchoolDan's7th grade class

    Astronomy is looking up!

Matt Oltersdorf
November 1, 2000

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