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Way out there

By Staff | Nov 1, 2013

The screenshot of the International Space Station was taken from the presentation projected onto the dome. Submitted by Angie Bartholomay, Dakota College at Bottineau

A chorus of “Whoa” and “Oooh” escaped a blue, moon bounce-like dome in the Ely Elementary School gymnasium Wednesday.

A combination of kindergartners and first-graders gazed up at three-dimensional motion pictures of the International Space Station and renderings of a futuristic society on the moon.

“This is scary!” one child said. “This is cool!” another said.

The planetarium experience at Rugby High School on Monday and Ely the next two days was an opportunity provided by the state’s NASA Space Grant Consortium at the University of North Dakota. The 17 member schools of the North Central Education Cooperative could send teachers to a class at Dakota College at Bottineau and receive a visit from the mobile, inflatable dome – 11.5 feet high, 20 feet diameter – owned by the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Patricia Reiff, a professor of magnetosphere physics at Rice University in Texas, created the program.

Tim Chapman/PCT The mobile Discovery Dome from the Houston Museum of Natural Science was at the Rugby Public Schools this week. Students saw the International Space Station with a presentation from a projector.

“This program was in her vision that it would go out to rural areas where kids don’t have this opportunity and adults don’t have this opportunity,” said Angie Bartholomay, an associate professor of physical sciences at Dakota College. “So, I think we’re backing her up pretty well. She was pretty excited when she came.”

Bartholomay is collecting data at area schools, including whether children had seen a planetarium before. The goal is to increase space education and provide an annual experience for schools unable to purchase the $11,000 projector. Bartholomay estimates that buying the entire operation would cost about $30,000.

“That is really the thing that makes this different than any other dome because of the fish-eye lens in there and it’s covered with silver on the outside, so it’s very delicate,” she said. “That’s why we’re trying to get all this data, so (Reiff) really likes us and she’s gonna let it come back here for us. We’re trying to collect enough information for her to show there is a need in our area to have a dome like this.”

Of the 279 students at Ely, 97.5 percent experienced a planetarium for the first time.

The dome came to Rugby because fourth grade teacher Kerry Grochow and high school science teacher Jan Hagen took the class with Bartholomay, who also serves as the DCB coordinator for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Grochow said the school had a planetarium about eight years ago and she didn’t want her students to miss this opportunity. The children take a test after the viewing.

Ely Elementary kindergartner Mya Barker exits the mobile Discovery Dome after watching a presentation on the International Space Station on Wednesday. Tim Chapman/PCT

“It was amazing when we went back and did the post test how many answers they could really answer from what they picked up,” Grochow said Wednesday, “so they were very excited, so they want to come back here tonight and watch more.”?Students could view other shows about dinosaurs, the human body, stars and more during parent-teacher conferences after school.

The NASA grant runs out in mid-December, but Bartholomay still has stops at Bottineau, Belcourt, Mohall, Drake, Minot State University and Valley City State University.

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