Kyrene Centennial Middle School will be hosting its fourth Family Space Night next week, where students, parents and even staff can stargaze, learn more about telescopes, and participate in other activities.

Organized by science teacher Jon Hutman, Thursday’s event will feature about six telescopes brought in from the East Valley Astronomy Club.

“We get to set the telescopes up and then show the kids different things in the night sky,” said Lynn Young, the club’s public events coordinator.

The astronomy club visits and volunteers to help about 100 schools a year, operating under the Night Sky Network, which works with NASA.

Dually serving as a kind of science fair, parents can walk around and view projects, poster boards, and other presentations by students during the space night.

Last month, Hutman worked with fellow Kyrene school Akimel A-al as it hosted Astronomy Night also featuring the East Valley Astronomy Club, among others. Akimel’s Astronomy Night brought guest speakers, lunar samples from NASA, and a STARLAB Portable Planetarium where attendees could climb into it to view the night sky.

“It is also of great value since we cannot go out and see the night sky and its wonders during the school day, so this event provides an opportunity to gather and actually see the things we talk about and teach in the classroom during the day,” said Akimel teacher Stephen Reed, who is leading the planetarium for Centennial.

Several teachers at Centennial will be instructing different sessions during space night, with the STARLAB Portable Planetarium being one of the sessions. Displays will be set up in the gymnasium as well as the telescope viewing.

“These schools are trying to get kids interested in math and science,” said Young, who will be attending Centennial’s event.

The club has been serving Valley elementary, middle and high schools for about 15 years. Young, who has been a member of the club for about four years, said he likes to interact with students.

“It’s kind of neat to be asked questions by kids,” Young said. “The bigger kids even get into questions about intergalactic matter.”

As the East Valley Astronomy Club visits lots of low-income schools, Young said he is happy that all kids get the opportunity to experience astronomy.

“I just like seeing the faces of the kids when they look through the telescope for the first time,” Young added. “To me, it’s worth it to give kids the chance to do something they may not have been able to do.”

Family Space Night will be from 6 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 10 at Kyrene Centennial Middle School, 13808 S. 36th St., and is open to the public.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow on Twitter: @_dianamartinez.

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