News-sun photo by Christopher Tuffley Avon Park Middle School science teacher Chris Stephan shows 6th grader Eddie Collier how to work his new telescope. Eddie, who is autistic, received the $200 instrument as a gift from a benefactor in California.
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published: Sunday, November 20, 2011
Opening the universe
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
AVON PARK -- Young Eddie Collier quietly paced up and down Avon Park Middle School commons.
A sixth-grader, he is autistic, so pacing is a part of who he is.
He is also an avid reader, fascinated with science.
For example, this year he made a study of different species of ants in his backyard. He focused on what the different types of ants eat, how far they venture from their nests, and the amount of time they take to forage.
His science teacher, Chris Stephan, was very impressed by Eddie's deep interest and the careful attention to detail in his report.
He noticed that as Eddie paced in the classroom, he was drawn again and again to the telescopes Stephan keeps there, silently checking out the different components.
At the end of the last school year, to reward and encourage Eddie's interest, Stephan was given permission by school administrators to loan him one the school telescopes over the summer.
Eddie and his dad, Kevin Collier, began a study of the planet Jupiter.
"Jupiter was on its closest approach," Collier said. "We'd go out every night to see how it changed."
Stephan, a serious amateur astronomer who built a significant telescope of his own, couldn't have been happier or more proud.
A member of the international group American Association of Variable Star Observers and the Citizen Sky Watch Project, Stephan wrote about his autistic student with an exceptional interest in science, telescopes and the stars.
To his complete amazement, Gordon Myers, a fellow amateur astronomer, wrote to him offering to buy Eddie a telescope of his own. What amazed Stephen as much as the generosity of the $200 gift was that Myers lives in Hillsborough, Calif.
Friday morning, Stephan presented the telescope to Eddie while his parents and school administrators watched.
Stephan was as excited as Eddie, going over every component showing the boy how everything worked.
It is computer driven with a motor, so the user only has to tell the instrument what he wants to see and it sights automatically.
It can be operated manually as well, which Stephan said is the best way to learn the night sky.
With a four-inch refracting lens, the Meade brand scope has an excellent range.
Andromeda will stand out, Stephen told Eddie, and several galaxies, different colored stars, hundreds of amazing things. Eddie was silent, drinking it all in.
The final amazement, Stephan said, was Myers' response to Stephan's message of thanks.
"You're the one making a difference in a young person's life," Stephen said Myers wrote.
"I appreciate what you're doing with your students."
As for Eddie, he stopped pacing and spoke for the first time. "Thank you," he said.
My God, it's full of stars! (by: brook :) - 11/21/2011)
congrats to Eddie, and a pat on the back for you, Stephen for encouraging and enlightening. nice to read such warm stories sometimes!
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