Students earn opportunity to view solar system from ‘inside’ |

Students earn opportunity to view solar system from ‘inside’

Lee Harstad

After crawling through a portal and landing under the night sky, star gazers settled in for a journey into a celestial sphere.

A smaller version of the solar system, including planets, constellations and stars, visited Craig Intermediate School (CIS) Wednesday. Students were able to study astronomy first-hand as a 30-feet by 15-feet dome was inflated in the CIS gym.

To the delight of the fifth- and sixth-graders, an exuberant Thomas Landry acted as captain of the ship on the journey through the nine planets, stars, exploding stars, constellations and comets.

Landry is an astronomer and cosmologist (one who studies how the universe began) and is able to share his knowledge with the help of the inflatable universe.

“I try to give them a really good overview of astronomy, the universe and the notion of time,” Landry said. “It is about the space-time continuum and how big the universe really is.”

The inflatable planetarium, produced by educators of Mobile Ed Productions in Redford, Mich., allowed physical education classes to participate in the 45-minute journey through the universe.

Students making their way into the dome witnessed the night sky in a global perspective.

“It is like being out under the night sky,” program director Debbie Frazier said. “The company putting it on does a wonderful job.”

Students participated in an “Earth Treasures” fund-raiser earlier this year to help defray the cost of the program. This fund-raiser consisted of students selling items made from the earth, such as bracelets and pencils. By receiving a percentage of the profits, students were able to bring in the expandible solar system.

In touring the “balloon of stars,” tour guides of the dome used laser pointers to guide students through the stars of the Northern Hemisphere, exactly as they appear in the sky. Learning how to identify stars and constellations, the students were also introduced to Greek mythological characters and saw how these heroes of the past can be found in the stars.

The “Starlab Planetarium” has been traveling to schools since 1984.


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