Dark Skies, Bright Kids (DSBK)

DSBK is an outreach organization here at the University of Virginia that seeks to enhance science education in Virginia elementary schools, particularly in underserved demographics in STEM.  I have been volunteering with DSBK since coming to UVA.  Every year we host after school "club" activities, usually for about eight weeks, at a local elementary school.  Our activities span many different areas of science from rockets to planets to other life in the universe.  During the summer, we host a camp somewhere in rural Virginia where we condense our eight weeks of activities into one week of science fun!  During the summer of 2020 and 2021, we hosted this summer camp virtually to give students the chance to participate in science education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.  We also host an annual "Star Party" at Albemarle Ciderworks where people can come to a dark-sky environment to see stars, do activities, and (for the adults) have cider.

McCormick and Fan Mountain Observatory Public Nights

UVa hosts public viewing nights at McCormick Observatory twice a month throughout the year as well as twice a year at Fan Mountain Observatory.  I volunteer at some of the McCormick public nights, and I volunteer at both of the Fan Mountain public nights.  At the McCormick public nights, guests can look through the famous McCormick refractor as well as through two smaller telescopes in our “doghouse” observatory.  At Fan Mountain, guests get to see the various telescopes on the observatory grounds such as the 40 and 31 inch telescopes, listen to public talks from UVA students and professors, and see demonstrations such as with an IR camera.

Astronomy Mentorship Program (AMP)

AMP is a program through the astronomy department that pairs graduate students with a small group of undergraduates to facilitate conversations about classes, research, and life.  Mentors get to meet with their group, usually about once a month, outside an academic setting to get to know them and offer advice.  I volunteered with AMP for my first two years at UVA, mentoring three students at various stages of their academic career.  I'm hoping to return to volunteering next year.