Friday, January 25, 2008

Star Lab

Today was a cool teaching day. Yes, they are all cool, but some are more cool than others. Today was an exceptional day. Today we enjoyed the benefits of the Star Lab. It is a portable planetarium that tours schools. We had it on loan for a few days. It is blown up by a fan and is really quite large. This afternoon we had 40 people inside, although most of them were smallish! The children crawl in through the long tube you see shooting out. Inside there is a light upon which a cylinder is placed. There are several cylinders to choose from. One shows the constellations as the Greeks explained them through their stories. Another shows the constellations as the Native Americans saw and explained them. They are shown in a sort of "connect the dot" fashion. Then, you put on the cylinder that shows the night sky as we see it, no lines giving outlines. It is great fun. Mr. O., our 3/4 grade teacher is great at telling these myths. He explains everything so well. He begins by telling the kids that if they are outside, and want to find out which way is North you have to first think of where the sun rises, that is East. Now where it sets, that is West. If you are standing pointing to the East and West and it spells "WE" the way you are standing, you are facing North. If it spells "EW", you are facing South. I had never heard it explained that way before, but I won't forget it. So, we go into the lab. It is set to show the night sky as we would see it here in Southern Indiana in January. Very cool. He shows the "connect the dot" constellations to lay it out for everyone. He tells the Greek mythology, even pointing out how J. K. Rowling uses them in her books, and then shows the constellations without the dots. He hands to pointer to the kids and has them show where things are. So fun. But, I am sure you will find it hard to believe, came my favorite moment when we all sang, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" while Mr. O. changed cylinders. The acoustics in that dome are so great. It sounded wonderful! It was a fantastic ending to a cold and ill week. Thanks Wilson Center for the use of the lab. Thanks Mr. O. for amazing teaching skills! Thanks kids for your fabulous singing and constant wonder and amazement as you learn something new!


Glenda said...

Sounds neat Kristi! We are studying astronomy this year, the kids love it. We have a radio guy who is an amateur astronomer that has toured the state for the past 20+ years giving presentations on the stars. He brings along two huge telescopes for us to view the night sky. The first time we went, couple of years ago, we saw the surface of the moon and the rings of Saturn. The second time we went, just the beginning of Dec, it was too cold to see much because of the ice crystals in the air, but we did see the nebulae in Orion. Pretty cool.

Kristi Heinz said...

I would love to have gotten someone to come out and have a family night under the stars, but this was just not the time of year for it. Every school has to sign up to get the lab, and sometimes you end up with it at a time of the year when it is not so convenient to get someone out with a telescope. Oh well. Maybe next year.