A student looks at the sky through a pair of binoculars on a walkway lit by red lights.

On a clear Tuesday evening, the huge mechanized telescopes of UNC Asheville’s Lookout Observatory pivoted towards Jupiter’s celestial grandeur.

Eager middle schoolers from BCS Virtual Academy (BCSVA) lined up to peer into the eyepieces, amazed to see Jupiter's striped clouds and the Jovian moons tracing their endless paths. This observatory visit, a tangible extension of their virtual learning, aimed to enrich their social and scientific exploration. As they stared into the star-speckled cosmos, they marveled at the Moon’s craters, distant nebulae, and the fleeting streak of a meteor — a stargazing odyssey etched into memory.

“I enjoyed the field trip,” said Drew, a seventh grader. “I got to look at the stars. One of the highlights of being there was seeing the Moon and getting to see Jupiter up close with three of its moons in a line.”

“I loved it!” added Alla, an eighth grader. “My favorite part was seeing the stripes of Jupiter and seeing the moon up close. I’m so glad I got to go on this field trip!”

BCSVA science teachers Brian Frees and Nick Peragine organized the field trip, part of a series of hands-on trips and projects that help build community at the school. They sponsored an Ecology Club that tracks and maps bird sightings and will soon start a pollinator garden. Students also took home caterpillars and tracked their metamorphosis until they emerged as butterflies. That project ended with a field trip to the NC Arboretum, where students learned more about monarch butterfly migrations.

“As the middle and high school science teachers, we have been working to create a science-related, socializing event each month for this school year,” Mr. Peragine said. “Last night was just the latest example. What an amazing opportunity for students to view some amazing objects in our night sky through the lens of a professional telescope. We are grateful to UNCA for hosting us for this event.”

Mr. Frees agreed and thanked the UNC Asheville docents (student teachers) for their time and extensive knowledge.

“It was the perfect night,” he said, “clear skies, perfect temperature, and we are thrilled so many of our students and families were able to join us in this experience.”

The Virtual Academy synergizes the autonomy of homeschooling with the camaraderie of a classroom, facilitated by dedicated educators. It’s where experiential learning and connection coalesce. Discover more about our universe of opportunities.

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