Planetarium gets the wheels rolling on science education

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Photo courtesy of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.

Students in North Carolina are about to get their own Magic School Bus. Ten Boys and Girls Clubs throughout North Carolina will spend a week with an interactive science vehicle through a partnership with the Morehead Planetarium and GlaxoSmithKline.

The initiative, named “Science On Your Street,” consists of a van containing interactive technologies and experiments for children, including 3D printers and robots. The curriculum, designed by employees of Morehead Planetarium, focuses on engineering and technology.

The Brentwood Boys and Girls Club in downtown Raleigh was the first stop Sept. 26 —  the first day of the initiative.

“It went really well,” Glenda Hairston, the Morehead Planetarium's Outreach Science Programs manager said. “The kids did an activity centered around littleBits, which we call electronic Legos. Kids can design their own electronic devices like circuits out of simple materials to power mini fans.”

According to Marti Skold-Jordan, the GSK U.S. Community Partnerships manager, many school districts spend less than an hour a week on science education. “Science On Your Street” serves as a conduit for children who don’t have access to interactive technologies in classrooms, museums or other educational facilities.

“We want to inspire all kids to learn to love science,” Jordan said. “We want kids to know that science is magic. Science is an adventure.”

Jordan expects a long term impact from the program. With a workforce that increasingly demands STEM skills, Jordan said it is important that children become fluent in science and technology from an early age.

“The jobs of the next generation are going to be in STEM,” Jordan said. “No matter what you touch everyday, whether it be your cell phone, your smart car, from taking your pill in the morning, everything we touch during the day has some sort of STEM component. Even if (the kids) are not going into STEM, they need to be STEM literate, because that’s what their world is.”

"Science On Your Street" is the newest addition to the science education programs that GSK funds. 

GSK partnered with Morehead Planetarium 10 years ago to bring “Science in the Summer,” a free educational program, to the state. Now, the program has over 140 sessions across 10 North Carolina counties.

“We fund the program and Morehead facilitates it for us,” Jordan said. “They’re incredible partners. The best science educators are at UNC Morehead and it’s the perfect place to teach kids.”

Both GSK and Morehead Planetarium have similar goals for students. 

“Our goal and purpose is to inspire and engage children of ages, as well as, their families and communities in science and engineering technology,” said Crystal Harden, Morehead’s director of programs and strategic initiatives, in a press release.

“Science On Your Street” is free, and Hairston said she would love to see the program expand to reach more underrepresented communities across the state.

“We want to provide equitable opportunities for all children,” Hairston said. “It’s so exciting seeing the faces of these kids when they’re exposed to these new technologies.”

@ramishahmaruf_

university@dailytarheel.com

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