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Ad Astra

Join My Astronomy Class!

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Dan

Nice work and thanks for sharing. My kids are keen to get involved and this will help as I am fairly new to the subject and just looking up just begs the question, where do you start?

I particulary liked your advice in your last post "Only add complexity as competence improves!" A great message to everyone starting out.

Ceti

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Dan

Nice work and thanks for sharing. My kids are keen to get involved and this will help as I am fairly new to the subject and just looking up just begs the question, where do you start?

I particulary liked your advice in your last post "Only add complexity as competence improves!" A great message to everyone starting out.

Ceti

Hi there Ceti!

If you want to get started, the first thing I do is take kids out and try to get them familiar with the constellations - I begin with the northern constellations as they are familiar to almost everyone and build outward from there.

If you download the attached file at the beginning of this tread, you will find a set of 12 numbered activities. Proceeding through each one in order will give you lots to do, and they are designed to build your skills as you go. Each activity is designed to take 20-40 minutes and focuses on just one or two essentials - it helps everyone stay focused, and end the evening with a feeling of accomplishment. ;)

If you start out and have questions or problems, you can contact me and I'll be happy to help out! Some of the activities are designed for paper & pencil, others require a pair of basic binoculars or a small telescope. Nothing needs more than a 7x50 bins or a 4" dobsonian - essentially the most basic astro kit will do the job for this 'class'!

Have fun with your kids and let me know how you do! :)

Dan

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Stuff the kids, I'll try this myself - might have a slight cloudy sky issue here in UK though - so might take some time!

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Stuff the kids, I'll try this myself - might have a slight cloudy sky issue here in UK though - so might take some time!

:):hello2:;)

I've often said that education was really wasted on the young!

Rock on MorningMajor!!!

Dan

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That's when I tell them "Use the Force, young Jedi!" :)

I wish it was that easy!! Then again, I've never actually tried to "use the force"... I'll try anything to get some clear skies down here. ;)

I remember when I was at school studying for my GCSE's even thought I done double lessons and was in the top class for it (I loved science as a kid). There was next to nothing in the lessons or the exam about astronomy. I personally always thought it was wrong as it's such a big subject (literally). All we had was name the order of planets, back when Pluto was still a planet. :)

Loved the pictures of the scopes, the one on wheels made me chuckle, very cool!! ;)

Dazz

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Dan, do you ever involve the kids with observatory viewings?

here in the U.K, as well as the States, observatories can be booked online as part of state funding.

I wish I was a student again!

Great topic, thanks.

Edited by JohnDenim

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I wish it was that easy!! Then again, I've never actually tried to "use the force"... I'll try anything to get some clear skies down here. ;)

I remember when I was at school studying for my GCSE's even thought I done double lessons and was in the top class for it (I loved science as a kid). There was next to nothing in the lessons or the exam about astronomy. I personally always thought it was wrong as it's such a big subject (literally). All we had was name the order of planets, back when Pluto was still a planet. :)

Loved the pictures of the scopes, the one on wheels made me chuckle, very cool!! ;)

Dazz

Hi Dazz!

I agree with you - astronomy education is badly ignored in school - that's why I do all this stuff! By the way, Pluto is STILL a planet (my pal Clyde discovered it!). The IAU has defined planets as a process, not as an object - very silly and confusing. Besides, since when is a dwarf planet not a planet?? Planethood is simple - If you are large enough to compress yourself into a sphere (hydrodynamic equilibrium) and you orbit a star - you are a planet! We have 17 of them and if Tyche turns out to be a real deal, we will have 18.

Glad you liked the C-11 on wheels - that is a set of wheely bars from JMI telescopes. Very handy indeed when your observing site is 500 m from your classroom!!! :)

Dan

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Dan, do you ever involve the kids with observatory viewings?

here in the U.K, as well as the States, observatories can be booked online as part of state funding.

I wish I was a student again!

Great topic, thanks.

Hi John,

No, I haven't done anything like that yet. I usually focus on getting kids out to put their hands on the equipment and experience the sky the old fashioned way. High tech on line observatories are great, and if I was teaching an advanced class where we could take advantage of the really cool equipment, I would do so in a heartbeat.

For what we do, however; basic astronomy 101 with kids and 20-somethings, I feel that the hands-on experience in the dark beats the on-line experience every time. For kids who grew up with PlayStation, Nintendo, Atari, and XBox - anything on a TV screen is rather divorced from reality. :)

Live sky rocks!

Dan

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I thought Pluto got "downgraded" to a dwarf planet because it is in the Kupiter belt (spelling might be a little off) and there is over 400-ish objects of the same size? Either way, I was taught at school that it is a planet so I still call it as such! :) I was watching a tv the other week about the discovery of Pluto, very interesting stuff that was. :) I've actually found out, via the Sky at Night magazine that you can do a GCSE course in Astronomy over the Internet. Might look at that once I've finished at college night classes. ;)

500 meters?! Sod that for a game of skittles!!! I complain about lugging my scope 5 meters, then again I do have 2 Old English Sheepdogs to get past! ;)

Dazz

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Yep, can agree there.

My son (who is ten) is an expert on video games, but has just recently started coming outside with me and seeing the real, should I say, 'world'?

He is really enjoying the experience, and I will use your 'class' as a starting block.

Thanks for sharing.

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I thought Pluto got "downgraded" to a dwarf planet because it is in the Kupiter belt (spelling might be a little off) and there is over 400-ish objects of the same size? Either way, I was taught at school that it is a planet so I still call it as such! ;) I was watching a tv the other week about the discovery of Pluto, very interesting stuff that was. :) I've actually found out, via the Sky at Night magazine that you can do a GCSE course in Astronomy over the Internet. Might look at that once I've finished at college night classes. ;)

500 meters?! Sod that for a game of skittles!!! I complain about lugging my scope 5 meters, then again I do have 2 Old English Sheepdogs to get past! ;)

Dazz

The IAU thing of determining planetary status based on whether or not there is debris in your orbit is nutty. If there is a large planetary impact in your neighborhood and it clutters up your orbit, do you lose your planetary status until you clean up the mess??? Pluto has an orbit that is 8 times the size of Jupiter's and it travels at about 1/3 the speed. A little though would lead you to realize that no object - no matter how large - could achieve the 'clean orbit club' status necessary to be a real planet... the Universe isn't old enough. ;) I think that if they actually do confirm the discovery of the new planet Tyche that some of the astronomers have been speaking of, it will finally put this silly process-based definition of 'planet' in the dust bin where it belongs. The thing is supposed to be bigger than Jupiter, and with an orbit of hundreds of AU, it will certainly have other objects floating around in its orbit! If they stick to their silly definition, we will have a Jovian giant in the neighborhood that fails the test for planet-hood! :)

I have no problem with a classification scheme that says any planet smaller than (choose a size) is called a "dwarf" planet, and planets bigger than (choose a bigger size!) is called a "giant". Clear and sensible, consistent and useful - everything a 'definition' should be.

In my class, I've always taught four planetary classes:

1) Metallic - more than 60% metal by mass, 0-.3 AU. Ex: Mercury. Reason: Lg metallic core makes internal dynamics function much differently than a terrestrial planet made of molten rock w/ small metal core.

2) Terrestrial - Primarily silicate w/ metallic core, .5 - 4 AU. Ex: Venus, Earth, Mars. Reason: Silicate planets have plate tectonics, active resurfacing, can self-generate atmospheres & hydrospheres.

3) Jovian - H/He composition w/ silicate/metallic core (?), 5 - 40 AU. Ex: Jupiter, Saturn, 100's of exoplanets. Reason: uniform composition, gas degenerates to liquid, and eventually solid metallic state deep in core. Powerful magnetic/gravitational fields, large families of satellites, (some co-formed, others captured), all with active ring/moonlet systems within their respective Roche limits.

4) Hadal - Ice/rock composition, 30 - 500(?) AU. Ex: Pluto-Charon, Quaoar, Sedna, Chiron, et al. Reason: Composition incl: water, CO2, CH4, N2, NH3 & other exotic ices. Surprisingly complex surface photochemistry, some with intermittent atmospheres that actively resurface the planet during each orbital period. Hydrocarbon "hydrospheres" such as are found on Saturn's moon Titan are predicted by some scientists, but not yet confirmed.

Mind you, this was my own system (not authorized by anyone! :p). It was consistent, responsive to new data, accounted for existing observations, and conceptually useful. But I'm not picky - if someone has a better idea, I'll glom onto that and toss out my own rubbish in a hurry! ;)

How many planets are there? I have 17 on the list in my classroom, and I don't care if it grows to 400, either. And as for those fools who say "We'll run out of names!!!", well, seen a phone book lately??? They may have to give up on the idea that their sacred committee has the right to name everything in the Universe - heck, they may even have to open up some stuff locally here in the solar system!

As a scientist, I collect the data and I am humble before it. There is no special chosen number - that's just silly! If we find that many, then I should think we would be clever enough to think of a cogent and easy to use naming system - some clever kid will probably make "Planet Namer!!!" an I-pod app. :)

Oh, and I tell the kids that "Pluto-Charon", is a binary planet... and I make 'em use both names. We can't be slighting the little folk, now can we??? :)

Dan

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500 meters?! Sod that for a game of skittles!!! I complain about lugging my scope 5 meters, then again I do have 2 Old English Sheepdogs to get past! ;)

Dazz

Don't let the distance bother you, Dazz. When you have 150 astronomy students, you just harness them like mules in a team and mush them up the hill to the field. ;)

Coming down the hill is a bit trickier than going up. We have three pulling on the uphill side, and a team of four managing the down hill side. One of the kids suggested that I allow him to "Skate" the rig down the hill. I was a grumpy old fart and said "NO!" :)

Seriously, the kids do all the fetch and carry, I even have aides to check everything in and out at the beginning and end of the night. No shortage of lab aides, either. Kids who took the class last year want to come back and play with the scopes w/o the responsibility of turning in academic work. Fine by me!!! :)

Apart from that, the astronomy field is my classroom - and I treat it that way! Everyone is on time, on task, and responsible for their own work and behavior. I can bounce them out of the program too, if they insist on being a pinta child!

My job rocks. :)

Dan

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Thanks Dan,I bet a small part of you is regretting joining this bunch of mad Europeans :)My Daughter is most excited about completing her first American homework.

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Thanks Dan,I bet a small part of you is regretting joining this bunch of mad Europeans :)My Daughter is most excited about completing her first American homework.

Awesome Richard!

Now I have to get to work on the Barth College logo for her diploma. :glasses1:

If you are a glutton for punishment, you can watch me welcome my newest class to their first lab night on video here:

Titan Digital Arts Projects - TAHQUITZ 2.0

Comic! :)

Dan

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There is actually 17 (possibly 18) planets in our solar system?! I was only taught the original 9 where did the other 8 come from? Sedna I know about already. Guess I have a lot to learn on this Astronomy stuff. Been out of the loop for years :glasses1:

I do like the idea of... "hired help" :) but the little kids a round here have the mental capacity of a rotten cabbage and the social skills of one to boot. I don't even bother answering them anymore. I've got some time over the weekend (I'm on the evening shifts, yet again... >;) ) so I'm gonna download your lesson plan thing and print it off at work. If they wanna keep me there late, they've got to pay for it :p

Just had a quick lookie at the papers, I have always wondered... how does the "points/credit" thing work?

Dazz

Edited by Dazzio

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Thanks for these. My 9 year old daughter will love them.

Rgds

Rob

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Just had a quick lookie at the papers, I have always wondered... how does the "points/credit" thing work?

Dazz

Hi Dazz,

These activities are from my regular astronomy class - with minor modifications, I use the same basic activities for the high school kids and the Astro 101 kids at the college (college kids usually have some math/research to go along with the labs).

Activities are usually 100 pts each, unless they are unusually difficult, or require extended observing time (over 1 hour). While I offer as many as 30 (or more!) activities per semester, 1500 pts is the bar for an A in astronomy lab. This amounts to about 1 activity per week, and the student can select the lab activities that interest them, or the ones that fit into their schedule. Of course, if they do morethan 1500 pts worth, the grade in lab can go over 100% While this sounds odd, I really don't care if kids are learning astronomy at the eyepiece or from the textbook, so it all works out fine. Many paths to success in Dr. Barth's class!!! :p

I try to offer one observing session per week, and I have a mix of "at home" activities (usually requiring no more than pencil and paper and a dark location), computer-based exercises (usually with Stellarium or Starry Night Pro), and more traditional telescope/binocular activities that kids usually have to attend night lab to do (very few have access to their own bins or telescope). Most kids are thrilled to be able to use scopes like I have for their own work.

We have (between college and 2 high school campuses) 1 CGEM-1100, 1 RB-10 250mm x 160 :) binoculars from JMI (World Class!), 1 Meade 10" LX-50, 2 Coulter 12" dobs, 1 NexStar 8 (needs repair), 1 CPC-800, 1, Meade 8" Newt on a EQ pier mount (massive!), 2 8" Celestron dobs, 2 NexStar-6, 12 6" Orion dobs (10 f/8, and 2 f/5), 1 120mm Orion Eon Refractor on EQ-3 mount, 1 120mm Meade refractor on LX-55 EQ mount, 2 100mm Orion refractors on small EQ mounts (1 needs repair), I Coronado 60mm solar scope on EQ-3 mount, 2 25x100mm Celestron Skymaster binos, 1 20x80 Orion binos on Parallelogram mount, 1 10.5x70 Resolux binos on tripod, 1 15x70 Skymaster binos on P-mount, Orion 7x50 binos ~ 40 pair, Orion 10x50 binos 6 pair, various other mid-size binos from 7x35 up to 7x50 ~ 20 pair, many donated and in semi-working order, and several Chunk-o-Junk donated 60mm Santa-scopes that we check out to anyone who wants to use one over a weekend. Oh, yeah - then there's all the eyepieces, filters, finders, etc. for all that kit. It's a lot of gear, and a real challenge keeping it all in working order, and getting the right equipment out on the field for 50-80 astronomy students once per week.

Don't kid yourself that I work for some moneybags rich school, either. This equipment was amassed (literally) over 25 years with yours truly spending every dime I had allocated or could cadge out of an administrator on equipment. I also wrote grants, won several awards (which all went to shiny-shiny optical toys!), and as the program was publicized, we have gotten lots of donations over the years. Last few years, however; my budget has been $0.00 and I either had to spend my own money for everything from batteries to glowsticks, to photo printing - or hope for donations and do without. I put several hundred $$ of my own back into the program every year, not to mention that all my evening lab time is unpaid. :glasses1:

Somehow, I muddle through. ;) But hey, every job has its little bit of scut work that we all have to put up with, right??? :icon_eek:

When I first started teaching astronomy - I tried to do the labs the same way I do physics or chem labs. I set the day and time, kids all show up, and everyone does the activity at the same time. Boy did that ever blow up in my face!!! :icon_eek: From jobs to babysitting the siblings, to finally getting that hot date, kids (and parents!!!) were not tolerant of requiring youngsters to come back to school in the evening - especially my labs are weather dependent and I can't schedule them more than a day or so in advance! (Hello? Mr. Weatherman??? I'd like to order a clear sky for my astronomy lab Wednesday night, please! :D )

Teaching astronomy in a public school setting is very challenging, but it CAN be done successfully, and on a reasonable budget. More over, the kids LOVE IT - and not because I'm an easy grader or a 'nice' teacher, either. I'm really an old fashioned disciplinarian, and I don't tolerate nonsense or suffer fools gladly... strangely, the kids really seem to appreciate that I am very serious about what I do.

Passion, FTW! :)

Dan

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Teaching astronomy in a public school setting is very challenging, but it CAN be done successfully, and on a reasonable budget. More over, the kids LOVE IT - and not because I'm an easy grader or a 'nice' teacher, either. I'm really an old fashioned disciplinarian, and I don't tolerate nonsense or suffer fools gladly... strangely, the kids really seem to appreciate that I am very serious about what I do

Hi Dan,

At the end of the day I bet that's the thing that puts a smile on your face and makes all the effort seem worthwhile? The fact the kids love the lessons and try to get the most out of it. Over here there is a lot of kids who expect to get handed everything on a silver platter. If they don't get the grades the easy way then it's obviously someone else's fault, because surely the reason couldn't be the fact the kids are lazy [removed word]... :glasses1: I was actually shocked to find out that a kid who is 5 years younger than me (he is 23 years old) didn't know how to change a wheel/tyre on his car because and I quote "I was never shown"... kinda lame excuse really eh?

Still I'm gonna have a play with these "papers" *when* we actually do get clear skies. Not looking good till about Tuesday, Wintery showers till then. :)

Dazz

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Hi Dazz,

These activities are from my regular astronomy class - with minor modifications, I use the same basic activities for the high school kids and the Astro 101 kids at the college (college kids usually have some math/research to go along with the labs).

Activities are usually 100 pts each, unless they are unusually difficult, or require extended observing time (over 1 hour). While I offer as many as 30 (or more!) activities per semester, 1500 pts is the bar for an A in astronomy lab. This amounts to about 1 activity per week, and the student can select the lab activities that interest them, or the ones that fit into their schedule. Of course, if they do morethan 1500 pts worth, the grade in lab can go over 100% While this sounds odd, I really don't care if kids are learning astronomy at the eyepiece or from the textbook, so it all works out fine. Many paths to success in Dr. Barth's class!!! :p

I try to offer one observing session per week, and I have a mix of "at home" activities (usually requiring no more than pencil and paper and a dark location), computer-based exercises (usually with Stellarium or Starry Night Pro), and more traditional telescope/binocular activities that kids usually have to attend night lab to do (very few have access to their own bins or telescope). Most kids are thrilled to be able to use scopes like I have for their own work.

We have (between college and 2 high school campuses) 1 CGEM-1100, 1 RB-10 250mm x 160 :) binoculars from JMI (World Class!), 1 Meade 10" LX-50, 2 Coulter 12" dobs, 1 NexStar 8 (needs repair), 1 CPC-800, 1, Meade 8" Newt on a EQ pier mount (massive!), 2 8" Celestron dobs, 2 NexStar-6, 12 6" Orion dobs (10 f/8, and 2 f/5), 1 120mm Orion Eon Refractor on EQ-3 mount, 1 120mm Meade refractor on LX-55 EQ mount, 2 100mm Orion refractors on small EQ mounts (1 needs repair), I Coronado 60mm solar scope on EQ-3 mount, 2 25x100mm Celestron Skymaster binos, 1 20x80 Orion binos on Parallelogram mount, 1 10.5x70 Resolux binos on tripod, 1 15x70 Skymaster binos on P-mount, Orion 7x50 binos ~ 40 pair, Orion 10x50 binos 6 pair, various other mid-size binos from 7x35 up to 7x50 ~ 20 pair, many donated and in semi-working order, and several Chunk-o-Junk donated 60mm Santa-scopes that we check out to anyone who wants to use one over a weekend. Oh, yeah - then there's all the eyepieces, filters, finders, etc. for all that kit. It's a lot of gear, and a real challenge keeping it all in working order, and getting the right equipment out on the field for 50-80 astronomy students once per week.

Don't kid yourself that I work for some moneybags rich school, either. This equipment was amassed (literally) over 25 years with yours truly spending every dime I had allocated or could cadge out of an administrator on equipment. I also wrote grants, won several awards (which all went to shiny-shiny optical toys!), and as the program was publicized, we have gotten lots of donations over the years. Last few years, however; my budget has been $0.00 and I either had to spend my own money for everything from batteries to glowsticks, to photo printing - or hope for donations and do without. I put several hundred $$ of my own back into the program every year, not to mention that all my evening lab time is unpaid. :glasses1:

Somehow, I muddle through. ;) But hey, every job has its little bit of scut work that we all have to put up with, right??? :icon_eek:

When I first started teaching astronomy - I tried to do the labs the same way I do physics or chem labs. I set the day and time, kids all show up, and everyone does the activity at the same time. Boy did that ever blow up in my face!!! :icon_eek: From jobs to babysitting the siblings, to finally getting that hot date, kids (and parents!!!) were not tolerant of requiring youngsters to come back to school in the evening - especially my labs are weather dependent and I can't schedule them more than a day or so in advance! (Hello? Mr. Weatherman??? I'd like to order a clear sky for my astronomy lab Wednesday night, please! :D )

Teaching astronomy in a public school setting is very challenging, but it CAN be done successfully, and on a reasonable budget. More over, the kids LOVE IT - and not because I'm an easy grader or a 'nice' teacher, either. I'm really an old fashioned disciplinarian, and I don't tolerate nonsense or suffer fools gladly... strangely, the kids really seem to appreciate that I am very serious about what I do.

Passion, FTW! :)

Dan

You sir, are one of the most fascinating people I have ever encountered online! :)

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Respect Dan.

You sound like the kind of teacher schools the world over could do with more of.

Clear sky's and good luck to you.

Rgds

Rob

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Hi Dan,

Over here there is a lot of kids who expect to get handed everything on a silver platter. If they don't get the grades the easy way then it's obviously someone else's fault, because surely the reason couldn't be the fact the kids are lazy [removed word]... :glasses1: I was actually shocked to find out that a kid who is 5 years younger than me (he is 23 years old) didn't know how to change a wheel/tyre on his car because and I quote "I was never shown"... kinda lame excuse really eh?

Dazz

There is way more of that here than I am comfortable with - your description covers about 80% of the student body at most high schools today. Sadly, we put more than half our funding into the lowest 20% and starve the upper 20% from which virtually all of our teachers, doctors, police, business owners, engineers.... and yes - astronomers (amateur and pro!).

Still, I made a decision a long time ago to focus on really improving the chances of the upper 1/3 of the student body. I work them very hard, really - but they leave very well prepared for the challenges of professional life or university life.

I know what you mean about the incompetence of young people when it comes to mechanical things. My brothers and friends were always taking things apart in the garage or basement, putting together kits, or trying to make something out of Scientific American or Popular Mechanics. Now kids all rush to get the latest video games - but they are puzzled to find that there are no cheat-codes in real life! :)

The only labs in my physics classes are design challenges. Our latest: the "Bunji Jump o' Death!" We tape a raw egg to a brick... and the kids have to build a bunji cord apparatus that will allow it to fall almost to the floor - without breaking the egg. The catch of course, is that I collect all the bunji cords, THEN tell them the height. They go home and use their physics skills and test data to determine how much slack they need to save the egg.

Test day was fantastic! Many eggs died for the sake of science, and the custodians were very [removed word] at us at the end of the day! (Egg was everywhere!) Didn't help that one of the eggs was rotten, either! :p Still, we learned a lot!

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Ad Astra thank you, as others have said 'Stuff the kids' I'm going to do them for me aged 63¾

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Ad Astra thank you, as others have said 'Stuff the kids' I'm going to do them for me aged 63¾

:o

Hello Chatham!

You sound like my sort of fellow! My college class it taught at the local 'Community College" - you probably have something like it in the UK - we're not a university, we are a 2-year college and you have to go on from there to get a proper college degree.

That means I get everyone from the 'not quite ready for University' group, to the 'can't afford University' group, and the "I'm just here 'cause I'm interested in this stuff' group. The last lot are usually a bit older (over 30, sometimes well above that like you and I!), and much more serious about the learning. They usually get the best grades and turn in the best work and put the younger kids to shame. :(

I love when that happens! :)

Let me know how it works for you and if you need any help!

Dan

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