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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Nov. 4, 2013 5 years ago

Planetarium aims to inspire math, science careers in students

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A portable planetarium was brought to Seabreeze High School last week as a low-cost field trip option.

BY WAYNE GRANT | STAFF WRITER

Seabreeze High School students got a chance to explore the universe last week without leaving the auditorium. The portable planetarium from the Museum of Arts and Sciences took them on a journey through the stars on Oct. 23 and 24.

Looking like it just landed from space itself, the planetarium is a black dome that is transported to schools and other locations as part of the museum’s outreach activities.

Earth and science classes visited the planetarium throughout the day at Seabreeze. The cost was $2 per student and the Parents, Teachers and Students Association provided funds for those who couldn’t pay.

Bridget Bosco, earth-space and biology teacher at Seabreeze, said the planetarium enables the students to see science in action.

“It brings text books to life,” she said. “They see the constellations, the stars and the formation of the solar systems. We want to make earth science fun.”

She said the things they learn in the planetarium also support the new Florida standards for science that will go into effect next year.

Bosco wants the students to appreciate the world around them and also consider different careers. She said many students pursue business or law degrees today and they should realize there are many high-paid jobs in science and technology.

“NASA is still operating,” she said. “Martin Marietta is still here. We want to inspire students to study math and science and stay in Florida. To go into these fields, the students must get the prerequisites in high school.”

She said she hopes students will get excited about technology and perhaps study at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Skip Saunier, also a science teacher at the school, said the experience illustrates the lessons students learn in the classroom.

“It captures their attention and imagination,” he said. “They see nebulas, galaxies, other planets, an up-close view of the sun,”

The operator of the mobile planetarium, Seth Mayo, is a 2009 graduate of Embry-Riddle.

Saunier said it’s good for the students to hear about science from “a young, cool guy,” instead of just hearing it from teachers.

“The students ask, ‘How did he get this job?’” Saunier said. “He makes it fun.”

The portable planetarium saves money for the schools, because they don’t have take bus rides to the museum.

As a result of a 2009 FEMA grant, a new planetarium is being constructed at the museum. Mayo, curator of astronomy at the museum, said “It’s going to be in a new building with state-of-the-art equipment.”

The portable planetarium has been in existence for a year and has been visited by about 3,000 students in the area, Mayo said.

“We want to educate and inspire the community,” he said. “It’s one of our missions.”

Some of the equipment in the planetarium was paid for by a grant from Publix Super Markets Inc.

Having the portable planetarium was actually a stroke of luck for the museum.

Mayo said he was at a planetarium society conference in Baton Rouge in 2012 and put his business card in a drawing. He won the mobile planetarium, made by a company called Go-Dome. He can disassemble it and transport it in his car, which makes it convenient for travelling around Volusia County, sharing the excitement of space science.

This story was updated on Nov. 7 for information about the permanent planetarium at the Museum of Arts and Sciences.

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