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Inflatable planetarium helps West Hernando students learn about nighttime sky

BROOKSVILLE — The huge silver-colored dome, parked on the gymnasium floor at West Hernando Middle School, looked like a giant misplaced igloo.

"I call it the mother ship," said Victor Santiago, 29, an outreach program presenter from Tampa's Museum of Science and Industry, referring to the inflatable planetarium.

Santiago was at the school recently with Laurie Lee, representing the Florida Department of Education's Just Read, Florida! program.

Lee was there to link the lab to literacy. She told students to practice reading to improve their reading skills. She also was hoping to connect Literacy Week to science and technology.

Santiago took students in groups of about 30 through a tunnel that led into the black interior of the dome. When a ball in the center was lit, a simulation of the night sky spilled onto the inner surface of the dome.

Santiago pointed out the stars and their constellations. Then he put a cover over the ball that added constellation drawings, leading to mythology stories.

Eighth-grader Alexis McElhaney, 14, said her favorite constellation is Ursa Major, which contains the Big Dipper.

"It's actually educational for everyone to learn what the stars are about," she said.

Eighth-grader Jayden Williams, 14, enjoyed being able to see the night sky during the day "because some people go to sleep and don't get to watch the stars or get to study them," he said.

Eighth-grader Heather Pollard, 14, picked up a few facts from her visit to the dome.

"I learned about the constellations that are in the sky, like Sagittarius, Capricorn, Orion and Draco. I also learned the myth about Perseus and the winged horse Pegasus," she said. "I enjoyed the presentation because we got to see all of the constellations as pictures."

Said her classmate Anthony Rebello, 13: "I learned about the different constellations and where they are. I learned that each constellation has a story, usually a myth, attached to it. I thought that learning about the constellations was very cool because I had never learned about them before."

Inflatable planetarium helps West Hernando students learn about nighttime sky 01/23/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 5:30pm]
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