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Telescopic creations

Use simple materials to make a telescope then look into the sky and discover the stars.
Plan a session with this activity

You will need

  • Tables
  • Chairs
  • Pens or pencils
  • Rulers
  • Something to protect surfaces (for example, newspaper or tablecloths)
  • Craft materials (for example, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, stickers)
  • Scissors
  • PVA glue
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Paint brushes
  • 1cm wide concave lenses
  • 1.5 inch wide convex lenses
  • Craft knives
  • Sheets of cardboard
  • Black electrical tape
  • Black paint
A line drawing of the items needed to DIY your own telescope.

Before you begin

  • Make sure you’ve risk assessed your meeting, and also have a COVID-19 safe risk assessment that’s been agreed by your line manager. You can check out more detailed guidance here
  • If you’re going to use paint to decorate your telescopes, make sure people know to come to the meeting in clothes they don’t mind getting paint on.
  • You can buy lenses online – they’re fairly cheap. It’s even better if you can repurpose lenses from old reading glasses or magnifying glasses.
  • Set up tables with newspaper (or tablecloths) to protect them.
  • Set out chairs two metres apart and put a pile of materials in each place. Everyone will need two kitchen roll rubes and one of each lens.

Safety checklist

Use the Safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity.  Additional coronavirus-related controls to think about may include: 

  • Set up a hand washing station that you can use throughout the session. Everyone should wash their hands before and after touching equipment.
  • You’ll need enough equipment for everyone so people don’t have to share – it won’t work to build these telescopes in groups. You could ask people to bring kitchen roll tubes from home.
  • We’ve suggested setting the equipment out on the tables so people don’t help themselves from one big pile.
  • Think about how you’ll make sure that people are safe when they’re using craft knives – you won’t be able to get close to help. You could show everyone how to do it safely at the beginning of the activity or you may want to do these steps before everyone gets stuck in.

Get into position

  1. Everyone should find their own seat. The person leading the activity should remind everyone that the seats (and piles of equipment) have been set out so everyone will be safe.
  2. The person leading the activity should explain that the night sky is full of different things, from stars and planets to satellites. There’s a limit to what the naked eye can see (and elements such as lights from a town or city can also limit what the eye can see). People use telescopes to be able to see more.

Make a telescope

  1. Draw two parallel lines from the top of one of the tubes to the bottom. The lines should be one centimetre apart.
  2. Use scissors to cut along the lines and remove a strip of the tube.
  3. Put the tube with the strip missing into the other tube. Squeeze the tube with the strip missing together slightly to make it fit, then check that it moves up and down the inside of the tube without catching on anything.
  1. Once the inner tube’s a perfect fit, tape it back together with black tape then try the sliding action again.
  1. Place the smaller, taped tube on a sheet of card and draw around the end with a pen or pencil.
  2. Use a ruler to draw a cross in the circle.
  3. Put the one centimetre concave lens in the centre of the circle and draw around it.
  4. Cut the larger circle out then use a craft knife to carefully cut out the smaller circle from the centre.
  1. Brush some glue around the edges of the small hole in the circle.
  2. Find the flat side of the one centimetre concave lens. Push the lens into the hole so that it sticks there with the flat side facing up. Wipe away any excess glue.
  3. Brush some glue around the edges of one end of the smaller, taped tube.
  4. Push the circle of card with the concave lens into the tube so that it sticks with the flat side facing up.
  1. Once the glue’s dried, carefully tape over any joins with the black tape to keep any light out.
  2. Brush some glue around the edges of one end of the other tube. Take the one and a half inch lens and gently push it into the tube so that it sticks. Wipe away any excess glue.
  1. Once the glue’s dried, decorate the telescope. You could use paint, pens, stickers, or other craft materials.

Discover the stars

  1. Everyone should take the telescopes outside and find a space two metres apart from everyone else.
  2. Everyone should look through their telescope and see which stars they can find.
  3. The person leading the activity could challenge everyone to find specific things like constellations, satellites, or the North Star.

Reflection

The sky we see at night is full of different things, from stars and planets to satellites and asteroid showers. To be able to see more, people and astronomers use telescopes of all different sizes. How did your team work together to make a telescope to help you look at the stars? You needed a delicate touch to glue in the lenses and shape the inner tube, and a creative approach to come up with a design.

The naked eye has a limit to what it can see. But also, depending on where you live, other elements can reduce what you’re able to see, such as urban lights. How does your telescope help you see more? What could you change about your telescope to see even further? Think about other lenses and materials you could use.

Safety

Scissors

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using scissors. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people

Rubbish and recycling

All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.

Glue and solvents

Supervise young people appropriately when they’re using glue and solvent products. Make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Be aware of any medical conditions which could be affected by glue or solvent use and make adjustments as needed.

Sharp objects

Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.

Dark

Provide some light, so the environment isn’t completely dark. Everyone must be able to see others and move around the area safely.

All activities must be safely managed. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.