A while ago I travelled all the way up north of this little country – to Groningen – for the first time, to do a few talks about Galaxy Zoo. Recently I was asked to do this five hour train trip again, to tell a group of students from the dr Aletta Jacobs College about this project as well.
I was invited by Michel, who’s a volunteer, or ‘Zooite’, too. He’s a teacher at this college and had an afternoon of science planned for his class of about thirty 13-year-olds. I’d be doing my lecture and afterwards guide my audience into classifying galaxies themselves. It’s a good thing I like trains, but the day spent travelling turned out to be worth it anyhow!
Michel had told me the colourful school couldn’t be missed – not even by me! And indeed, this cheerful building wasn’t hard to find (unlike the entrance though)! In the classroom I had a computer and big screen waiting for me and the students seemed enthusiastic too. Although that mainly had to do with the fact they were going to launch their own made rockets after my ‘lesson’!
It was nice to see this class wasn’t all that different from the ones I’m teaching in Limburg. I didn’t need to mention where I came from by the way, they had guessed from my ‘soft g accent’. Some of them had already seen me on TV as well. So at the start they were talking a lot, but my story (and the pictures with that) of how big our universe is, made them quiet.
After my talk we had a little break, to come back to the computers where I’d be explaining a little more on how they could participate themselves. Most of the students had already found the website and started sorting through the pictures of galaxies themselves though, before we were back! It turned out Zookeeper Phil’s images on the buttons make it easy for these students to understand the (English) questions. And they loved doing it!
After a while of helping real scientists with real science, I had to say goodbye and Michel told the group they’d shoot off their rockets now. It made me smile to hear someone say: “No, wait, I want to post this galaxy on the Zoo forum first”! Thanks Michel, for inviting me. And thanks to all the students for the lovely afternoon!