Astronomy Night at Beattie Elementary features telescope with special meaning for teacher

Students and families who attended Beattie Elementary School’s first Astronomy Night on Friday had their choice of several telescopes to use. One of those telescopes, however, held special meaning.

The event’s organizer, second-grade teacher Ashley Livers, brought the telescope she and her dad made for the LPS science fair when she was a fifth-grader at Fredstrom Elementary School more than a decade ago. 

“I had a very hands-on dad, and I remember telling him I wanted to do something about space,” said Livers, now in her second year teaching at Beattie. “I said, ‘Well, we could just buy a telescope.’ And he said, ‘Buy a telescope?’”

Instead, they found instructions online for how to make their own. They bought the supplies and he helped her use the necessary power tools. The result was a telescope roughly four feet long, with a powerful lens about 12 inches in diameter. 

She remembers the science fair, held at Pershing Center, and how they made due without stars: They taped a quarter to the wall in the building’s upper section. 

“You could see it perfectly with the telescope,” Livers said.

She got hooked on astronomy at a young age. She remembers family road trips to western Nebraska for star-watching parties. She recalls shorter trips to the Hyde Observatory in Lincoln that left her equally starry-eyed. “I just always have loved astronomy.”

More than 150 students and family members signed up for Friday’s event at Beattie. They started inside, where they learned more about what they would see in the clear night sky and how telescopes make that possible. Then they moved outside, where they took turns on one of several telescopes. There was a second large telescope, made by Livers’ dad, as well as a few smaller telescopes donated by a Beattie alum who now works at a planetarium.

Livers hopes Friday’s event had an impact on students similar to what she experienced at their age.

“I hope they got out of it what I got out of it when I would go to the star parties, or when I would go to Hyde. Not everyone has the resources to do that. So having it here at school, so they could walk here and it’s free - it’s a great opportunity,” she said. “I hope the students left with a feeling of excitement about learning - not even just about astronomy, but just being able to learn in general and outside of school hours. Hopefully it ignites a bit of passion because finding something that you’re passionate about, no matter what it is, that will take you far.”

Published: October 14, 2019, Updated: October 14, 2019

Beattie Elementary second-grade teacher Ashley Livers with the telescope she made with her dad when she was in fifth grade.