Students blast off to far reaches of the universe
In these dark and depressed economic times using creative financial calisthenics is sometimes necessary and oft-times crucial.
Case in point for Elizabeth Cunningham, a sixth-grade instructor at Castle Heights Elementary School and eight-year veteran of the teaching wars.
Cunningham wanted to show her charges more about the solar system than they could get out of a book, but the costs of renting buses and carting them to the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City made the idea as far from reality as the planet Pluto is from Carbon County.
Still, there had to be way. "I received some information in the mail one day which seemed to give us a second option," she explained.
"It was from Go Planetarium, a company that offers to bring the building to your school - complete with films and instructions on several space-related topics such as "The Night Sky," "Fantasy World," "Earth's Wild Ride," "Ring World" and "Future Moon."
The plans were completed and soon the organization found its way to the academy on Thursday, Feb. 25. From about 8:15-11:30 a.m., dozens of fourth, fifth and sixth grade pupils made their way through the large, black 22-foot diameter inflatable structure set up in the school's multi-purpose room. Once inside, the children could sit or lay, look up at the walls and roof of the edifice and see the universe in all of its glory go sweeping by.
Cunningham's class took the "Night Sky" course, which runs about 40 minutes and features a live presentation of the stars we see in the evening - as well as those we would see during the day if the sun did not exist. Western constellations are shown and their mythological origins are discussed; as are the Indian-related constellations of the Eastern sky.
The kids also were able to see what the various star formations would belike if viewed from Asia, the North Pole and other unique locations.
These programs are created by such prestigious centers as NASA, the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences and Rice University, among others.
Most of these presentations are designed specifically for students in grades four through six, but some are available for children as young as those in second grade.
"I thought it was really interesting," said sixth-grade student Becca Bowman, who had visited the Clark facility years before. "We were studying astronomy and this just brought everything home." Her classmate, Preston Anderson agreed. "It was pretty cool," he said. "I had never been to something like this before. It was really cool to see all of the planets and galaxies, too."
Another of Cunningham's pupils, Lexi Seals, added, "This was an awesome experience. It was a good review of what we were studying and it was really fun to learn about the constellations and the universe." Seals' only complaint was that she would have liked to have seen another program, but she did enjoy her time viewing "The Night Sky." Fourth and fifth-grade students, however, were able to see the "Earth's Wild Ride" presentation.
"I thought this looked like a good idea and it made a lot of financial sense," Cunningham said. "They did a good job correlating with our core lesson on astronomy and it was not associated with the Clark Planetarium. I was very impressed at the graphics and technology, especially for a mobile unit.
"The children also really enjoyed the experience," she added. "The went inside and laid down saying 'oooh' and 'ahhh' all during the program. I just wish were were able to have had it a little longer than the three hours it was here."
The company does offer a five-hour duration, but it costs about $100 more.
For more information on Go Planetarium, call (801) 805-0189 or visit www.goplanetarium.com.