Visiting Group Officer

Responsibilities

  • Read and respond to requests for group visits on the outreach-admin email account
  • Plan dates, times and locations for group visitations
  • Schedule volunteers to organize and execute the events of a group visitation
  • Approximate time commitment is 10 hours / semester.

Directions

Every couple of weeks we receive requests from groups wanting some sort of private instructional session at the observatory. Groups are mostly elementary and middle school groups, but occasionally we have scout groups, adult groups, etc. We do our best to accommodate these groups, oftentimes scheduling an event a few weeks later where they visit the department for an hour or two. During this visit, we employ a theme (e.g. comets, meteors and asteroids, or the Moon, or the Sun, etc.) that influences our activities throughout the session. The session typically begins with an introductory slideshow on the theme, followed by a few educational interactive activities, and lastly observing on the roof (if the weather is clear). Visiting groups tend to rave about their visits to our department, and some have even donated money to us in the past!

  • At the beginning of the semester, the Outreach Director will add you to the outreach-admin email alias. This means you (along with the Outreach Director) get all of the emails sent to the outreach-admin@astro.columbia.edu email address.
  • In order to avoid multiple people responding to the same email, please CC the outreach-admin email address on all responses you make to requests to the outreach-admin account.
  • When someone contacts us with a request, respond and find out from them:
    • Organization of attendees (public school, private school, scout group, etc.)
    • Age of attendees
    • Number of attendees
    • Background of attendees (level of knowledge, have they just covered astronomy topics in class, etc.)
    • If daytime or evening visits work best for the group
    • If weekdays or weekends work best for the group
    • Any particular topics that they want us to cover
  • In this first response email, I also try to see if they're aware of our public lecture series, as oftentimes they can just send their group to one of these, and then we don't have to plan an independent event for them.
  • Except in extreme cases, we do not go out to schools--they come to us. It is too hard to get volunteers out there, and most groups want to see the telescopes and the observatory here. If contacted by a group that wants us to come to them, perhaps suggest they talk to Mary Putman about her Middle School Program.
  • Generally, we try to keep our visiting groups to < 25 visitors, 1.5-2 hours (shorter duration for younger groups), and we use the library around mid-morning.
  • If the school group is a private school, mention in your response to them that we have a suggested donation of $10/student/hour--usually rich private schools have no problems paying this fee. This cost is departmental policy put down by Jacqueline and Kathryn. If the school group is public, do not even mention this. We get NASA Space Grant funds to specifically pay for public groups such as these.
  • Once you have received the information from the visiting group, plan a time within a few weeks that works for their group and check to make sure the resources in the department will be free (the library and the telescopes).
  • Contact the group confirming that the date works. Give the visiting group the link to our Pupin Directions Page, and instruct them to come to the 13th floor when they arrive. Also get their contact person's phone number.
  • Schedule the library's use with Ayoune and mark it on the library door calendar.
  • Write an email to the outreach-volunteers list requesting volunteers to sign up for hosting the event. Give them the date, time, name of the group, theme and number of attendees. Typically 3-4 volunteers are sufficient to handle a 25-30 student group.
  • Your participation as a volunteer is not necessary, but you are welcome to help if you want.
  • Add your event to the outreach wiki's list of events along with the volunteers signed up for it.
  • Once you have sufficient volunteers, organize a group meeting with them to plan out the activities (or have them plan it over email). The Visiting Group Activities page has some ideas of different activities, as does the Family Astro Activities page. You can also make up new activities, but if you do, please record them on the Family Astro Activities page for future reference.
  • Make sure each volunteer knows when they are supposed to arrive, and what they are supposed to do. Make sure there is someone at the 13th floor when the group is set to arrive. Make sure that there is the necessary equipment for your planned event.
  • After the event, please update the outreach wiki's list of events by removing it from the upcoming events and adding it to the finished events. Include the volunteers, time spent and number of attendees.
  • Write up a short 1-2 paragraph description of how the event went for the Public Webpage. See link for examples of previous writeups. Send this description to the Outreach Director.