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The Volunteer Stars of the Public Observatory

Posted on Fri, April 27, 2018
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What do you like to do on a sunny day in Washington, DC? Some people like to wander around the National Mall, others might read a book or take a bike ride. Some people, however, spend their sunny days at the Museum’s Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory helping passersby observe the Sun safely. Volunteers for the Observatory run a variety of hands-on astronomy activities, from helping visitors look through telescopes to demonstrating how to tell a meteorite from a normal rock. If you’ve ever visited our Observatory, you’ve probably talked to one of our amazing volunteers that make it all happen.

As part of our celebration of Volunteer Appreciation Month, we asked some of our volunteers to share their experience working with visitors at the Museum. Here’s what they said:

Volunteer Anne Ahrendsen using a telescope outside of the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory.

Volunteer Anne Ahrendsen using a telescope outside of the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory. Credit: National Air and Space Museum

Anne Ahrendsen, Lead Volunteer

“Volunteering in the museum has made it so much more fun to live in DC. Besides the fact that I love getting the chance to teach people about space and recommend cool things to do in the area, volunteering has given me a newfound appreciation for tourists in DC. I love having the chance to share something I'm passionate about with people from all over the world.”

Volunteer Diane Tupper with the Museum’s Solar Wall.

Volunteer Diane Tupper with the Museum’s Solar Wall. Credit: National Air and Space Museum

Diane Tupper, Lead Volunteer

“A saying pinned up above my desk is ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’  That’s what volunteering at the National Air and Space Museum does for me. It makes me stretch beyond my comfort zone and feel a little nervous and alive.  I love conveying that energy and the excitement of space to the public.”

Volunteer David Boggs inside of the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory

Volunteer David Boggs inside of the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory. Credit: National Air and Space Museum

David Boggs, Lead Volunteer

“I have enjoyed volunteering at the Public Observatory and the Touch a Falling Star Discovery Station.  I find that many of the visitors do not realize that the Museum is an educational institution.  We surprise them with knowledge.  It's fascinating when you 'hit a nerve' - when you pique their curiosity and can go deeper.  One father said (in humor) ’you get us in here and make us learn something!’  I think we all hope to 'plant that seed' in a young person’s brain, for them to explore science and maybe influence his or her career direction.” 

Volunteer Miché Aaron working with young visitors at one of the Museum’s Discovery Stations

Volunteer Miché Aaron working with young visitors at one of the Museum’s Discovery Stations. Credit: National Air and Space Museum

Miché Aaron, Volunteer

“Volunteering at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has been one of the best experiences of my life. It always brings me joy seeing kids and adults get really excited about learning the different types of meteorites. My most memorable experience was listening to one little girl, who wants to be an astrogeologist in the future, explain to me what each of the meteorites were made of, right down to the mineral composition! I always look forward to moments like that when my audience can teach me about what's on my Discovery Station. I hope to experience more of these enriching moments as I continue to volunteer at the National Air and Space Museum.”

Kevin Beamer volunteering at one of the Museum’s Discovery Stations.

Kevin Beamer volunteering at one of the Museum’s Discovery Stations. Credit: National Air and Space Museum

Kevin Beamer, Lead Volunteer

“I enjoy volunteering in a science and education setting because I've learned that knowledge is one of humanity's most unique possessions. It's one of the few things that you can give to another person, but you still have all that you started with. Usually, you end up with more, because they'll tell you something you didn't know or ask a new question that you have to go find the answer for. Volunteering has shown me that one of the best ways to learn about something is to try to explain it to someone else.”

Our volunteers make the experience stellar at the National Air and Space Museum. Next time you’re here, make sure you say hello!

Interested in volunteering for astronomy programs like the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory? Fill out an application or email us at SIObservatory@si.edu.