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Looking to space—second graders check out visiting planetarium

Photo of girl pointing at papers on the wall

Marissa created her own constellation and associated myth. She said, “When you see that heart up there it makes you love your family more. And it looks like the heart emoji and it represents Valentine’s Day.”

In early January, second graders at Central Valley’s elementary schools were seeing stars—literally—thanks to a visit from the OHM BOCES Portable Planetarium.

The planetarium made a stop at Barringer Road Elementary on Thursday, Jan. 7 and then at Fisher Elementary on Friday, Jan. 8.

The planetarium is a large inflatable dome, like a bouncy house From the outside, it looks like a big, black igloo. Stepping through the narrow slit of the door, students discovered it was much more.

Photo of the constellations outlined on the planetarium's ceiling.

By connecting groups of stars, ancient people imagined mythological creatures, people, animals and objects in the sky.

The room is like a giant round tent. Made of special fabric, no light passes through, making the room completely dark. A projector attached to a computer laptop casts an image of the heavens on the dome’s ceiling. Looking up, the students saw a representation of the same night sky they would see if they were to lie on their backs and look up. With a push of a button, that image rotated to reflect the hour of day and the time of the year.

OHM BOCES educator Loren Dachary showed the stars, pointed out the Polaris the North Star and other familiar sights. She then displayed the sky with the constellations clearly outlined. Ms. Dachary shared several of the great mythological stories that civilizations once told to explain the patterns they saw in the sky, tying in the lessons students could learn from the stories. It was a blend of ancient literature and modern science. She enlarged the moon, revealing its massive planes and craters, then moved through its phases, from new moon to full moon.

Prior to the visit, each teacher presented different lessons to introduce students to astronomy. For example, Mrs. Wesolowski’s class created their own constellations and wrote brief myths to explain their arrangements of stars.

Afterward the students shared:

Mrs. Wesolowski’s Class

  • Tessa – It was cool because when the moon was moving, it felt like we were actually spinning.
  • Isabella – It was cool when all the constellations came out because it actually looked 3-D.
  • Richard – A planetarium is a place where you see stuff that’s in space.
  • Ionna – When you go there you see everything you haven’t seen in space.
  • Mason – I learned that the moon is also made out of dust and gas.
  • Matthew – Orion was a constellation.
  • Miley – There is like a snowman in the moon and there’s a rabbit.
  • Trenton – There are horses in the sky. Pegasus.

Mrs. Pederson’s class

  • Evan – Jupiter has rings.
  • Chelsy – Jupiter has a hurricane for lot of years.
  • Urijah – We got to see planets.
  • Hailey – It’s really cool. It’s fun.
  • Leah – The moon has a bunny on it.
  • Photo of girl emerging from planetarium