Schenectady museum's portable planetarium brings astronomy to kids
SCHENECTADY With summer vacation now in full swing, it can be difficult to keep kids engaged in education when they’re often more eager to run outside and spend a sunny day by the pool.
However, the Museum of Innovation and Science (also known as miSci) and the Dudley Observatory have created programs that are using hands-on learning to create an engaging learning environment for kids of all ages.
This summer, the Dudley Observatory’s 16-foot inflatable planetarium will be traveling to area public libraries to provide kids a fun and free education about astronomy and the stars in the sky. When the dome, known as Starlab, is fully inflated, kids crawl inside and a projector is used to display constellations on the ceiling.
“So many people are intrigued by the night sky,” said Elissa Kane, interim executive director of the Dudley Observatory, “including children who look up and say, ‘what’s that? And why?’ We want to foster that interest in astronomy and science for the future.”
Kane said that an expert in observational astronomy will be present at each Starlab event. Among the topics addressed are Greek and Native American names for constellations, the phases of the moon and the effects of the rotation of Earth.
The Dudley Observatory and miSci have a relatively recent collaboration; just last year, the observatory moved in to the miSci site at 15 Nott Terrace Heights in Schenectady. MiSci, which houses an archive of over 5,000 books, millions of advertising documents and business records, 1,000 motion pictures, and over 1.5 million photographs, has been providing a science education to the community since 1997.
The portable planetarium events that will be taking place throughout the summer will be a part of “Fizz Boom Read,” New York state’s library reading program.
It encourages kids to read with events like Starlab and other incentives.
Free passes for child admission at miSci will be offered to all children who complete a milestone in the reading program at any participating regional library.
MiSci Executive Director Mac Sudduth said when he heard that the theme for this year’s reading program was science, technology, engineering and math, he immediately wanted to join in.
“It’s really important for kids to learn to read good nonfiction, too,” Sudduth said. “There are some really great children’s books in science out there, and we believe reading is the first door to getting involved in science.”
Sudduth said attendance at miSci was higher than ever last year, totaling 86,000 guests, mostly in large groups from elementary schools and organizations like Scout troops.
The Starlab dome is wheelchair-accessible and can accommodate approximately 28 students at a time.
All library locations recommend making a reservation before attending a Starlab event.