Early this month I had an astonishing experience at Purdy Elementary School. A local realtor and Purdy mom, Paige Schulte, who is dedicated to providing exciting hands-on opportunities to schools, donated Mobile Ed Productions’ Sky Dome Planetarium program to Purdy Elementary. It’s held in a huge inflated dome which occupied more than half the school gymnasium.
Throughout the day, students participated in 45-minute assemblies where they learned to identify every planet in our solar system in dramatic “flights” toward each world. They witnessed the night sky in different seasons and from different global perspectives. Every child had an opportunity to explore space and be introduced to Greek mythological characters and learned how these heroes of the past can be found in the stars.
“This was such a great opportunity to allow every student to discover the excitement of astronomy right here at our school,” remarked Principal Kristi Rivera. “Engaging opportunities like this make for great discussion with our students and the Sky Dome presentation also aligned nicely with our ever expanding STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) curricula.”
Fifth-grader Samantha Dietrich “thought the planetarium was amazing! I learned more about constellations like Orion, the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper.”
Students entered the dome and were introduced to a “star filled” sky by the navigator, Mobile Ed Productions’ performer Scott Dodson, with the use of a digital planetarium projector and a laser pointer. He guided students through the stars of the Northern Hemisphere exactly as they appear on the day of the presentation.
Maci Miller, a fifth-grader, said, “I thought that the planetarium was really fun! It was kind of scary at first, because I’m scared of the dark. But once it started and there were cool images on screen, it was good. My favorite part was when they put on the stars around the bubble because it was super cool! I also liked how (Dodson) kept cracking jokes about stars, planets and the sun. I learned a lot about the solar system by this experience.”
This is Schulte’s second year coordinating STEAM assemblies at Purdy Elementary.
“Education is a passion of mine and with the help of my foundation I am happy to give back to our schools,” she said. “Not every child has the opportunity to go to the Pacific Science Center. This is a great, affordable option, to allow all students an opportunity to spark a passion in the field of science and astronomy. Hands-on educational opportunities make learning fun and are my favorite way to give back.”
Schulte, a mom to three children, is on the board of the Chelsea Paige Foundation promoting and funding hands-on learning opportunities. She can be reached online at paigeschulte.com.
For more information about Mobile Ed Productions, visit mobileedproductions.com/.
Fifth-grader Austin Quilio said, “I thought it was really cool that the dome was made out of movie theater material. I learned all about the solar system. I definitely want to do that again.” His classmate, William Welter, asserted, “It made me want to travel into space and be an astronaut.”
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.