School Star Party Roles

There are three distinct roles, or areas of responsibility, for the School Star Party (SSP) program: SSP Liaison, Scout and SSP Astronomer. The Liaison role is held by one individual, while there can be several Scouts and Astronomers. However, the Liaison can also serve as a Scout and certainly as an Astronomer.

Here are the descriptions.

School Star Party (SSP) Liaison
This role handles incoming requests for SSPs. When a teacher, parent or other member of a school community contacts the SSP program, the Liaison does the initial reply. In this reply, all the info that the member needs to know is provided. This includes things like how to determine which dates are good to have a star party, which upcoming dates are available and guidelines for having a successful school star party. Then internally, the Liaison starts working to identify a Scout who will ‘own’ this engagement with this school. Once the community member selects a few possible dates, the Liaison hands off the communication to the scout with a message introducing her or him.

SSP Scout
The next role is that of the School Star Party (SSP) Scout. The SSP Scout owns the relationship with this community member and this school for the duration. The SSP Scout’s duties include finalizing the SSP date out of the possible dates identified by the Liaison, then going to the school on some day before the SSP to survey the site, meeting the member and stakeholders in person, finding out if there are any special needs like insurance, and providing resources to help promote the event. At the same time, the SSP Scout identifies SSP astronomers who can commit to the event. The scout leads the event all the way through to the end of the event at that school.

SSP Astronomers
SSP astronomers are the boots on the ground. They are the ones who get to hear the Oohs and the Ahhs from members of the school community. They are the on the ground liaisons between the SJAA, the community, and the wonders of astronomy. They provide their own scopes and related gear, share their knowledge, and they exercise their skills in clearly communicating to the general public. SSP astronomers have to be able to commit to the date, communicate with the Scout, and work out their own transportation to and from the SSP, for themselves and their gear. The scout does not necessarily have to be an SSP, but they do need to be at the event from start to finish, so it makes sense for her or him to bring a scope.

SSP Program Leader
After many, many years of leading the School Star Party program, Jim Van Nuland has decided to retire from it.  This opens up the possibility for someone to pick up the reigns, modernize the program, and build it to suit today’s needs.  If you have, or are looking to acquire, leadership skills, please consider stepping into this important role.  Responsibilities will be greater in the beginning as you learn about how the program has been operating, the tools and techniques used, and as you work to revitalize the systems.  Afterward, the Program Leader role will mainly consist of reporting to the board of directors status of program, number of schools served, contacts made and the like.  As Program Leader, you can decide if you’d like to also be the SSP Liaison, SSP Scout, and/or Astronomer.  You will have the flexibility to design and run it as you see fit (within the constraints of a reasonable school star party program, of course).  Keep in mind that although you will report to the Board on a monthly basis, your attendance at monthly board meetings is not required. As with all the roles above, if you are interested in learning more, please send an email to AskSJAA @