News-Sun file photo Chris Stephan talks about the telescope he built in his back yard. He is trying to get his science students at Avon Park High School a much better way to look at the stars, a Meade Light Bridge telescope.
published: Sunday, September 09, 2012
Opening the sky to all
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
AVON PARK - A long-time local science instructor and astronomist is on a mission to bring the stars and galaxies a lot closer to his students and the community.
Avon Park High School science instructor Chris Stephan is an avid stargazer and is putting together a plan to purchase a unique and essential instrument for astronomy lovers, both new and experienced.
"I want to buy a really nice, big telescope for astronomy courses," Stephan said. "We have a few little ones, but they're only really good for looking at the moon."
The Meade Light Bridge is powerful and the cutting edge of its field. It stands 6 feet tall and provides ample vision and clarity for gazers. (Information about the telescope may be found at www.astronomics.com/)
The telescope will allow students to see thousands of objects in the universe and a much better view of the moon.
"I've worked for a number of professional astronomers doing observations for them. I know this will be a great addition. We can use this telescope for stargazing nights three or four times a year," Stephan said.
After seeing a spark of interest in middle school students Stephan found an even greater interest in the science of space when he moved to the high school.
"Avon Park has the lowest poverty rate in the county. Most of the kids have never even looked at a telescope before. When I saw the spark and the interest, I knew I had to invest," Stephan said. "I love teaching here. There is so much happening here, so much good but that usually isn't ever seen; just the bad."
Stephan has partnered with the Avon Park Chamber of Commerce for his fundraising efforts to get the $2,000 telescope.
"I brought it to the chamber and Laura Wade just jumped on it. She is actively looking for businesses to get involved with the fundraising efforts," Stephan explained.
"Mr. Stephan is an active amateur astronomer and does work for professional astronomers. He also gives quarterly night sky presentations at Highlands Hammock State Park, and would use the telescope at these, too," Wade stated.
The telescope will remain property of APHS, but will be able to be moved to the park for viewings as approved through school administrators, according to Stephan.
"The administration has been tremendously supportive of the idea ... I'm excited about it. This is my specialty and I love teaching the students about it," Stephan said. "If they (students) start seeing something positive about their school and about their community, they'll have a better attitude. They'll start feeling proud of themselves, their school and their community."
Donations for the Avon Park High science class telescope are welcomed from businesses, organizations and individuals. Checks may be mailed to Avon Park Chamber of Commerce, 28 E. Main St. Checks should be made payable to Avon Park High School.
Anyone interested or needing more information may contact Wade at the chamber office at 453-3350 or call Stephan at the school, 452-4311.
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