Discover the Universe in Kabul

Posted by Sarah Scoles
on Wednesday, December 18, 2013

All photos courtesy of Doug Kaupa
Doug Kaupa is a U.S. soldier currently deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, with a passion for sharing the night sky. As part of the Discover the Universe program, he distributed star charts and images to local schoolchildren. On top of that, he and his colleagues pooled their resources to purchase inexpensive binoculars so the students would be able to put their new astronomical knowledge to use. He wrote about the experience at Anna’s Educational Center, where students continue to learn about what’s above their heads even though Kaupa returned to the U.S. on December 10.

On November 28, seven soldiers from U.S. Forces in Afghanistan (USFOR-A) toured Anna’s Educational Center in Kabul. The purpose was to bring new donations, such as books, paper, and pencils, to the students. Even more important, however, were the 200 Your guide to the Moon; Your guide to planets, stars, and galaxies; and Welcome to Astronomy pamphlets — bequeathed by Astronomy magazine — that we were able to donate. The 250 schoolchildren, ranging from grades 1–4, were amazed at the beautiful pictures and the many star charts.

What amazed Anna Hacker, founder and principal, were the inspiring questions the children asked their instructors throughout the day and into the next. She pointed out that Afghanistan is a “difficult market for these kinds of material, and astronomy is a hobby involving looking up at the night sky and wondering.”

The students at Anna’s Education Center are street-working children (boys and girls) who are transient and need to work to support the family. They sell fruit or clothing at the market or build woodcraft at home for the growing city. When they find free time for classes, hobbies appear to be a luxury. Yet with the colorful star and Moon guides, the children were allowed to learn the constellations and dream.

Even though the students’ English is very basic, they can understand the many pictures. Today, the students continue to come up with new questions about astronomy, a topic not usually taught in Kabul, through Hacker’s teaching.

Thank you, Astronomy, for the wonderful gift!

Clear Skies,

Jana Staron and Doug Kaupa, USFOR-A in Kabul

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