Between July 18 and 23, a summer camp for young stargazers has been organized at the Kletsas Estate near the historic and restored Gravia Inn in Fokida, central Greece, which promises days of exciting activities and magical nights exploring the evening skies under the guidance of professional and amateur astronomers.
Billed as the first astronomy camp for Greek children, the camp is a joint project put together by the Fthiotida Amateur Astronomy Club (SEAF) and the Astronomy and Space Society, based in Volos, central Greece.
SEAF came up with the idea for a summer camp in the first place and the youngsters will have access to its facilities at Ypati in the countryside outside the town of Lamia, which include the country’s third largest planetarium and its fully equipped observatory. The association will provide equipment for stargazing activities at the Kletsas Estate, where the youngsters will be staying. Meanwhile, the Astronomy and Space Society, the founder of the country’s sole astronomy school as well as the organizer of an annual astronomy competition for Greek schoolchildren, will be in charge of conducting tutorials.
In the meantime, given that the subject of astronomy is no longer part of the curriculum at schools, amateur associations, along with both state and private institutions such as the National Observatory and the Eugenides Foundation, have taken on the important mission of instilling a passion for the stars and planets in the younger generation while providing them with the necessary teaching.
Astronomy was dropped as a subject last year and “remains so,” says Konstantinos Mavrommatis, the Astronomy and Space Society’s founder and president. “Nevertheless, we have approached the government and the new education minister, as well as the consultation committee, in the hope that they will make amends in the upcoming programs which are in the works,” he added.
According to SEAF chief Fanis Smanis, there is major interest in astronomy in Greece and the idea for the camp came precisely out of the members’ need to address a broader audience. “We are located more or less in the middle of the country and we hope participants will join us from across Greece,” he added.
This year’s pilot camp runs for a week and for youngsters aged 13 to 18. Organizers hope the event will become something of an institution and possibly extend to other cities with the aid of local astronomy societies.
Meanwhile, professors at the Volos astronomy school are preparing for their visit to Gravia, where teaching hours will reach up to six hours daily (including the stargazing sessions which will take place at the Kletsas Estate and the SEAF observatory at Ypati). They will be providing their services on a voluntary basis.
Mavrommatis says the courses will introduce budding astronomers to the secrets of our solar system before moving on to the galaxy’s boundaries and beyond, and space travel.
For more information regarding the astronomy camp and how to apply, visit www.seaf.gr and www.astronomos.gr or call 6977.625.675.