I teach astronomy to high school students in North Idaho. It is part of a curriculum which I developed over the years and truly enjoy teaching. Each day in my class, students come in the door and we discuss an astronomical “picture of the day” from a NASA web site. I always try to make the pictures relevant to the subject matter which we are currently studying. Since my class is an alternative to taking a chemistry or physics, many of the students I teach are in my class as a way to avoid those other (more rigorous) subjects. However, they soon find that my class does involve some work and scientific application. With that being said, I still manage to enroll a fair number of student-athletes. Some of these students (as you can imagine) are the “macho” type and like to carry that persona around campus.
I require all students to attend two stargazing trips per semester and (in North Idaho), the opportunities to look through a cloudless sky do not come very often. Taking advantage of a break in the weather, we had one last night. Even though the town in which I live and teach is experiencing the 4th coldest spring, we managed to get our two telescopes (which are Orion Intelliscopes) to look at the sky. We saw a crescent moon in the west at about 9:00pm that go their attention. They wanted to see something “cool”. I swung the telescope South to look at Saturn. One of the school's best athletes (state champion in football and runner up in basketball, etc..) decided to take a gander through the eight-inch reflector. At that moment, he could not believe what he was looking at. He shouted, “No Way!”. He asked me if I had put a sticker on the front of the scope or something. I couldn't get him away from the eyepiece to allow others to take a look for a good 10 minutes. He left saying, “That was the coolest thing I have ever seen!”
As a teacher, there is no greater joy than when your students think what you have shown them is “cool”. I have students like this every semester. I think it is what keeps my classes going. I began teaching Astronomy at the high school level about 5 years ago. It started as a single semester class with 25 students and is now three sections of year-long curriculum and nearly 100 students. I want to then the fine people at Orion for building a cost-effective, high-quality product that my students can feel comfortable using.