Local Students Take Test Run Of Inflatable NASA Planetarium

A unique opportunity for STEM education in area schools was demonstrated recently by a group of local students who took part in a one-of-a-kind pilot project.

Students at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Pinckney were innovators-in-training during the successful test run last week of an inflatable NASA planetarium. The goal of STEM—which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics—is to increase science literacy and enable the next generation of innovators. St. Mary partnered with Excel Edu out of Grand Rapids to bring the new planetarium to Pinckney providing students with a literal out-of-this-world experience.

Paired with hands-on STEM education exercises, students in grades K-8 took an “in-school field-trip,” rotating from the inflatable dome to age-appropriate, hands-on science stations designed to spark their interest in STEM. St. Mary Principal Veronica Kinsey said the goal was “to harness that natural curiosity and use it to captivate students with new STEM resources that can really bring science to life and ignite a lifelong passion to explore, innovate and create.” After their visit to the planetarium, younger students designed their own solar system which filled half the gymnasium using humans, balloons and art materials, while older students mined for precious stones such as sapphires, typically found only in the mountains of Montana.

Excel Edu purchased the dome from NASA and brought on a former teacher to expand programming with what they call “edu-tainment” with the goal of engaging students in innovative STEM education that appeals to their natural love for learning. The inflatable dome planetarium is booking schools across the state through 2021.

For information about bringing the planetarium to a local school, contact Amber Knapp at 616-717-3005. (JK)

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