LAKE ASBURY – Through science, Thomas and Desiree Webber hope to lead Clay County students away from the distractions of modern society and into a future of discovery and real-world interaction. …
LAKE ASBURY – Through science, Thomas and Desiree Webber hope to lead Clay County students away from the distractions of modern society and into a future of discovery and real-world interaction.
After hosting a school-wide eclipse viewing event at Lake Asbury Junior High, where Desiree teaches, in 2017, the Webbers formed a plan to host a more inclusive event at the school that could lure stargazers from the entire county and beyond. That event came to be known as Starlight Night, hosted behind the school on Jan. 25 and featured an array of science-themed learning for those of all ages.
“A lot of our kids today don’t look up, they’re looking down at their cell phones,” Desiree said. “We wanted to show them that there’s a lot more out there.”
Thomas Webber was able to secure a partnership with the Northeast Florida Astronomical Society who brought a variety of telescopes to offer kids a better view of the cosmos than they had ever experienced.
The society’s president Greg Sauve, brought his personal telescope, a setup worth around $15,000, to provide students with a look at the incredible detail the 50-pound lens is able to pull from space.
“This is a great chance for parents to see their kids learning, and maybe they can learn something too,” Desiree said. “This is what school campuses should be like – fun, educational and a part of the community.”
Along with the huge telescopes, Thomas’ students from his AP Physics II class at Oakleaf High School worked booths inside the LAJH cafeteria that introduced event participants to several interesting scientific theories and laws using real world applications. Participants could interact with electricity, see first-hand the expanding and contracting caused by heating metal, and touch an actual meteorite, among other activities.
“I’m thrilled, this is what it’s supposed to be like,” Thomas said, while watching his students interact with community members while teaching them about science. “I do sincerely think that people have an interest in physics and astronomy.”
Since starting out the school year at Oakleaf, Webber has found a thrilling new career path in sharing his love of science with his students. One thing seems common among the young lives he has influenced, his students all seem to respect and look up to Webber, and he seems to have given them direction at a time when students in middle school begin worrying about their future.
“I was sort of floating until seventh grade,” said Soffia Bandril, a junior at Oakleaf High School who is in Webber’s AP Physics II class. “Science was the first class I did kind of well in, I just kinda got everything, so I liked it.”
Bandril is now enrolled in senior-level science classes as a junior, and plans to take as many science classes as she can before graduation. Since studying physics, she is set on a career in biophysics or astrophysics.
While planning the event, the Webbers weren’t sure what kind of turnout they could expect, so they put together a website and a video to market the event and the word got around. Hundreds of people filtered through the school, wandering around the booths before heading outside to check out the telescope viewing after the sun completely set.
LAJH Principal Becky Murphy attended, and about halfway through, once guests had really started to move through the school, she stood in the cafeteria smiling as she watched students pour through, happy and laughing, all while learning about science.
“It puts a big smile on my face to see kids learning and loving the solar system and space,” Murphy said. “I told Mrs. Webber that if this goes well we would try to do it again and I would say it’s going very well.”