Friday, August 29, 2014

Starlab Rocks!

This was a great week. There were several things that I could have led with but Starlab won out.

Let's see, I celebrated my birthday this week. I am at the point in life where I relish each and every one that I have. And, of course, it was my final birthday as a classroom teacher. A student who had me last year gave me a present - one of my favorite astronomically named confections: Moon Pies! Thank you Collin, and Erin for designing the bow. My other such favorites are Sky Bar, Star Burst, Milky Way and Mars bar. Never heard of a Sky Bar? They are made by NECCO and were around when I was a kid. They have made a bit of a come back. At least I see them occasionally in Florida stores.

Thursday night was parent Open House, again, my last. In my experience Pine View parents are a great bunch. At least all the ones who took the time to come to Open House were. They are interested in the classes their sons and daughters are taking and it is my job to let them know what can be expected in my class. And I do my best to make them laugh and feel comfortable that I am their kids teacher. All in all I view Open House as a positive experience, although it does make for a long day.

Then there is Starlab. For those who don't know, Starlab is a portable planetarium that I purchased for the school about 11 years ago with a couple of large grants. It has made teaching astronomy even more fun than it was before. We have class in Starlab once every other week, usually on Thursday. It is large and won't fit inside a normal classroom. So for now the best place for it is the auditorium stage. The first time we use it each year, each class period I set it up, explain what it is, take the students inside, have a fire drill (we get out of the dome in 5 seconds), set it back up, get situated, start the music, bring the lights down and show them the night sky. After 5 or 10 minutes, it is time to bring the lights up and pack everything up for the next class. The kids love it (so do I.) There is so much to do in Starlab, but I have learned that the best way is in little doses so it leaves them wanting more. It is just one more way that I try a variety of techniques and methods to helps learn about the heavens.

When I was a planetarium director, choosing music for the programs was a critical part of the production. It is still the same today. I use music to engage the students and draw them into the unique environment that we have in the dome. Over the years students have occasionally made suggestions of pieces of music to use in Starlab. And I have used some of them. But the two students who took this on as a personal project and proposed many pieces that I still use 10 years later are Michael Arbucci and Roger Zare. They helped give my collection a more contemporary component and helped me see the value of using movie sound tracks. Thanks Mike and Roger.

I have scheduled our first stargaze and hope for cooperative weather. If it flies, I will talk (write) about it next time.

Thanks for reading this.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to go through my music and see if anything fits the atmosphere! (heh)