Utah State Parks and Girl Scouts of Utah Join Together to Celebrate Starry Night Skies
SALT LAKE CITY — Girl Scouts of Utah will officially launch their Dark Sky Patch July 31, 2021, with a celebratory star party at Antelope Island State Park. Girl Scouts can earn the patch by learning how to be good stewards of natural night skies through various fun and educational activities. Antelope Island State Park and Snow Canyon State Park will then offer two additional dark sky events in September as part of this year’s Girl Scouts Love State Parks weekend.
Utah State Parks and Girl Scouts of Utah have been celebrating the beauty and importance of naturally dark night skies together since July 2019 when Antelope Island State Park hosted a special star party as part of a national Girl Scouts Love State Parks event. The success of that gathering inspired Utah State Parks Dark Sky Initiative Coordinator Justina Parsons-Bernstein to begin working with Girl Scouts of Utah Program Specialist Steffi Lietzke on a dark sky patch.
Not wanting to let Utah Girl Scouts’ curiosity and enthusiasm for dark skies wane while the patch was being developed during the pandemic, Utah State Parks worked with University of Utah’s South Physics Observatory to offer a live-streamed star party. In September 2020, observatory staff guided over 1,500 participating Girl Scouts and their families from Utah and around the country through a live tour of views of deep space. They remotely manipulated their large telescope at their observatory atop a remote mountaintop near Milford, Utah. The Girl Scouts asked South Physics Observatory Outreach Education Manager Paul Ricketts scores of probing questions about dark skies, space, stars, planets, and nebula in the chat sidebar and even helped choose what the giant telescope focused on during the event.
Utah State Parks staff are hopeful that Girl Scouts will fall in love with the wonders of the night sky and become program volunteers at Utah’s dark sky parks. There is already interest in the dark sky patch from other states and there may be a possibility that the concept will be picked up nationally by the Girl Scout organization.