Lyco Planetarium takes third graders on a journey around the solar system | News, Sports, Jobs




Lycoming College’s Detwiler Planetarium recently hosted third-grade students from Donald E. Schick Elementary School for their end-of-year field trip. Led by Lycoming College Planetarium Director Lauren Balliet, the class learned how to navigate the night sky, the phases of the moon, the planets visible in the early morning sky, and the scale of the solar system and the universe.

“Having the opportunity to educate young members of the greater Williamsport community is a rewarding experience,” said Balliet. “Often it’s their first visit to a planetarium, and they fill the dome with bursts of joyful exuberance during the show.”

Nearly 130 students visited the planetarium. In addition to a show at the planetarium, the field trip included a hands-on activity, a pocket solar system, led by Society of Physics Students President Amber Elinsky ’23. Each student was given a long piece of receiving paper on which they could draw the solar system while Elinsky discussed each planet and celestial object. “Kids loved it” said Elinsky. “I was peppered with questions about the different planets and how we study them.”

Many students shared their exciting thoughts on their visit to the planetarium. Read what some students had to say:

“I liked the dome because it felt like I was on a spaceship. It was like the moon and the sun were getting closer. – Arabella

“I think it was amazing. I’ve never seen a constellation in my life. Then they showed me tons of constellations and planets. I loved it!” –Nathan

“It was so much fun because I loved looking up at the ceiling and looking at the planets. It’s totally worth it, you’re in for a treat. – Drew

“The planetarium is amazing. I recommend going there. It’s fun and the pictures are amazing. -Nora

Drawn to scale, the activity allows students to understand the vastness of the solar system. Balliet’s plan and inspiration for the activity came from Emily Wilson, a recently hired teacher, who originally performed a similar activity during her mock lecture in middle school.

“My hope for them after their visit is that they remain curious about the many answered and unanswered questions about our universe,” said Balliet. “I really enjoy answering all their curious questions.”

In addition to serving faculty and students, the Detwiler Planetarium is available to the greater Williamsport community as an aid to classroom astronomical studies and for multimedia presentations. More information about the planetarium can be found here: https://www.lycoming.edu/astronomy/detwiler-planetarium.aspx.


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Arline J. Mercier