I am happy to inform that the StarPeace event scheduled on Feb 9, 2009, between the Society of the Sun and Kutch Astronomy Club was a resounding success. Both in India and in Pakistan, SOS Children's Villages were the proud hosts of the StarPeace event which helped to generate interest amongst orphaned and underprivileged children. Altogether there were about 60 SOS children who attended and approximately 5-10 persons who had responded to the public invitation in Lahore.
The event in Lahore, Pakistan started at 1800 when the children were gathered together and told of the wonders in the heavens and the objectives of StarPeace. After informing them of earthquake victims in the SOS Children Village in Kutch, they were informed of differences between the Earth as a living planet and its opposite, the Moon--which was a cold, dark place. Soon the moon could be seen to rise over the horizon and there were great yells of joy. However, the joy of seeing the moon was short-lived as it quickly disappeared behind clouds. So although there was a 12x60 binocular on a tripod and a small refractor, the absence of the moon was slightly disheartening.
However, there were still plenty of activities that could be done. After elaborating on how people have stopped looking at the stars, the children were led to the courtyard where they were made to role-play planetary motion. This was done by selecting children who were made to orbit and informing them of the characteristics of planets (Mars wears a red shirt, etc) and how values of year and day are arrived at. By educating them on how scientific thought has developed in the modern world, the children were told of Jupiter's moons and the demotion of Pluto to a dwarf planet. The ignorance of the Punjab Text Book Board was highlighted regarding this issue.
Following the role-play, the children were instructed on lunar phases using props (ping pong balls, tennis balls, magnets, marbles, etc) and made to see how the sun-earth-moon system is responsible for the changing phases of the moon. This led into a talk on how an eclipse happens and children were made to appreciate the complexities involved in a lunar eclipse. They were also told of the upcoming solar eclipse in July, 2009.
Finally, the children were lectured on cosmic distances and learned to calculate the distance from the Earth to the Moon (30x) and from the Earth to the Sun (400 x distance from earth to moon). Some calculations were made with a tennis ball and comparative analysis of planetary distances and sizes were made.
After this, we approached the appointed time to call our counter-parts in India. The children in Lahore all yelled "we are your friends" in unison as Mr. Narendra Sagar Gor attended the phone. Then I had the opportunity to speak to an SOS Village child in Kutch who told me she was enjoying the event thoroughly. Due to the fact that I had been on the phone all day, the battery drained and I could not say good bye to Mr. Narendra Sagar Gor. Following the exchange of greetings, the children were showed the IYA2009 documentary which has been translated into Urdu by the IYA National Node of Pakistan. The various images were briefly explained along with details of Galileo Galilee.
At the end, the children were told that this was just the first step in what would be a sustained effort in connecting people to the heavens and that they would be invited to the StarPeace event being planned at the Wagha border.
The event ended at around 20:00 just as the first few drops of rain were about to fall.
Report and Photos by Hassaan Ghazali from The Society of The Sun, Feb 10, 2009