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Starlab Instructors Visit the Saginaw Chippewa Academy

Sarah Cummins

2/28/2000 12:00:00 AM

Touching the sky became an awe inspiring possibility for local students inside a Starlab planetarium.

Starlab instructors brought their program to the Saginaw Chippewa Academy Binoojiinh Montessori on Jan. 27 and 28.

The presentation began with a movie entitled "What's the Brightest Star in the Sky?" The children listened in rapt attention as the movie divulged this secret.

"The brightest star to us is the sun," explained Instructor Karen Brown. "The sun makes the sky so bright you cannot see the other stars."

During the day the other stars aren't visible in the sky because "the sun brights it up," explained P'age Sowmick, a student from the five and six-year-olds' Literacy Room.

Brown also warned the children about the danger of looking directly at the sun even with sunglasses on. She had the children repeat after her:

"Never, never, never look at the sun," they all chimed in unison.

Starlab instructors use a portable, inflatable planetarium to teach students a variety of concepts in astronomy and space science.

In preparation for entering the Starlab planetarium, Starlab Instructor Harold Brock explained to the children that "stars make [imaginary] pictures." While dressed in an authentic NASA uniform, he passed around a large ball with many pictures of constellations on it and asked the children to identify what they saw. The children listed bears, dogs, twins, ladies, lions and a myriad of other characters.

Brock told the students what would be inside the portable planetarium and how to enter it.

"Our classroom is a little bit different from yours," he stated. "We crawl into our classroom."

Inside the domed structure, the children stared in awe at the stars and constellations projected on the walls and ceiling. They learned how to identify such constellations as Leo, the Big and Little Dippers, the North Star and Orion.

After exiting the Starlab Planetarium, the children sat grouped in a circle around a Hallis Planetarium. This planetarium is a small model of the solar system with moving planets.

"They did a fantastic job by bringing in exciting models to show the kids about the stars and planets," stated Literacy Room Teacher Shelly Adcox. She was also impressed with the program because it maintained the interest of and applied to the age group of her students.

Starlab is a program presented by the Central Michigan Science/Mathematics/Technology Center in partnership with REMC 5, and it is a program designed to support the teachings about space that teachers have already provided. This is the program's fifth year in existence.

"It was set up in northern Michigan and we've been working our way down," stated Brock.

Starlab does not only visit schools but also visits day care centers, retirement homes and other facilities.

The cost is $1 per student. The instructors check with teachers for input and then the money is put back into the program. The instructors' uniforms were purchased by CMU from National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The three Starlab instructors who visited the academy, Karen Brown, Harold Brock and Martha Anderson, are all retired elementary teachers who enjoy continuing to interact with children in a fun and educational atmosphere.