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Eyes on the sky

Space Fair allows students, parents to study the stars

Bridget Manley
Dioramas created by East Elementary fourth-graders decorated the school's common areas Monday night at the school's Space Fair. Students showed the projects to their parents after completing a five-month unit on outer space.
Bridget Manley

— Outer space has fascinated Mark Lincke since he was a child.

“I’ve been doing astronomy since junior high (school),” he said.

Now an adult with his three daughters enrolled in East Elementary School, Lincke’s trying to pass on that that fascination.

For two years, Lincke has set up his telescope in front of East Elementary on a cold January night. As students and their parents huddle near the instrument, trying to catch a glimpse of a distant planet, Lincke believes they’re encountering something they couldn’t experience anywhere else.

“Pictures are fine, but when you see (planets) through a telescope, you’re seeing the actual object,” he said.

Spotting Mars through Lincke’s telescope was one of the attractions that drew about 40 parents to East Elementary’s Space Fair on Monday night.

The other attraction?

A long-term project East’s fourth-grade students have been working on for more than five months, said fourth-grade teacher Linda Davis.

Every year since her arrival four years ago, Davis has taught an astronomy unit that educates students on topics including density, mass and gravity.

Students take notes on the planets in earth’s solar system and research one element of the universe. At the end of the unit, they give a five-minute presentation to the fourth-grade class using a diagram or Power Point presentation they created.

Students complete most of the project at home, often with parental help, Davis said.

Although the speech sometimes is a nerve-wracking affair for the students, Davis said the unit has been popular with current and past years’ fourth-grade classes.

“They love it,” she said.

At the unit’s end, Davis and other East elementary teachers host an open house at the school where parents can see their children’s work. There, children are required to present their projects to their parents.

When parents arrive at these events, it sends a message to Davis.

“They’re involved,” she said. “It’s important to them.

“I think parental involvement is so important,” she added.

Parents and children often gather together around Linke’s telescope before driving away into the frigid night.

Lincke hopes that this annual event will fuel the children’s curiosity in planets and stars – a curiosity that he discovered as a junior high student.

“If they have an interest (in astronomy), these programs foster that interest,” he said. “It’s a hands-on thing.”

Lincke also hopes more parents and family members will come to future Space Fairs.

“I hope to get more people involved in this because it’s fascinating to me,” he said.

Bridget Manley can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207 or bmanley@craigdailypress.com


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