North Cavan Students Tour the Universe from their Gymnasium

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Last week, North Cavan Public School students took a tour of the Universe without leaving the building. 

They hosted a special presentation from the Planetarium that was organized and funded by the school’s Parent Council.  Each year the parent group funds a special event for all students, which usually involves a trip, but this year, they brought the show to the school.   Principal Martin Twiss had seen the presentation in a previous school and made the suggestion to the Parent Council, who quickly jumped on board.

Planetarium presenter Peter McMahon arrived with a silver dome-shaped tent and some serious projector equipment and showed each class a customized show tailored to their age.  An award-winning science journalist, McMahon is a career scientist, space journalist and children’s author with a keen understanding of his audience and a slight flair for the dramatic.   He is the Science Commentator for CTV News and writes for media organizations including the Discovery Channel, Today’s Parent, OWL Magazine, the U.S. magazine Sky & Telescope.

The kindergarten show began with a view of the night sky from our neighbourhood projected onto the ceiling of the tent as more than 20 children watched constellations such as the big dipper and big bear appear.  For a closer look, they saw a rocket launch allowing them to get up close and personal with the moon and the sun and get an astronaut’s view of the earth.  Moving further afield, they saw planets such as Saturn and Jupiter, and learned about the movement of their moons and the formation of Saturn’s rings of ice crystals.  Close up views of stars showed their round shape, dispelling the misconception that they have pointed edges.

Photos Karen Graham

Back in the classroom, teachers facilitated discussions of the experience, which surprisingly did not begin with a discussion of alien life forms, but did touch on the topic.  Presentations for older grades included discussions about the International Space Station, the geography of Mars, comets, black holes, and a trip beyond the Milky Way into intergalactic space.  Back on earth, they also discussed Canada’s contribution to space in the past, present, and future.

Parent Council President Mary Benson was pleased with the event, saying “I am not sure if the kids were more excited about crawling through the tunnel into a big dome or blasting off in a rocket to see the stars during the presentation. It was great that they learned things about space while having fun. I think all grades enjoyed the experience.” KG

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