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Morehead Planetarium and GSK science-based summer camp adjusts to COVID-19 pandemic

Morehead Planetarium
The Morehead Planetarium is one of the stops for the Robertson bus route to get to Durham.

Although students across the state have learned outside of the physical classroom due to COVID-19, one free GSK-sponsored nationwide camp is still delivering hands-on, remote science education to students this summer with the help of UNC's Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. 

Usually hosted in local libraries and community centers, the GSKScience in the Summer camp, coordinated by Morehead Planetarium, has gone fully remote this summer due to COVID-19 concerns.

Zenovia Hogue, GSK Science in the Summer coordinator, said the camp's curriculum helps explain science in a way that can be understood and quantified by kids.

“These are all activities with things they see every day — things they see, that they don’t necessarily know,” Hogue said. 

According to a press release from the planetarium, students will be guided by educators from the Morehead Planetarium through home experiments in online videos, after which students with internet access will be able to join live virtual meetings to share experimental results and ask questions about the material. 

For students without internet access, paper guides to the experiments have been dropped off in Boys & Girls clubs across the state. Hogue said about 1,700 kits of science materials have been donated in central North Carolina.

In the press release, Becki Lynch, the director of US Community Partnerships at GSK, said the goal of Science in the Summer is to encourage campers from diverse backgrounds to consider careers in STEM fields. 

"We hope that GSK Science in the Summer programs continue to inspire more children to put on their goggles and explore the wonders of science," Lynch said in the press release. "Our goal is to encourage students, particularly those from populations underrepresented in the scientific community, to pursue STEM career paths later in life."

As the camp's operations adapted to the pandemic, Morehead Planetarium has also been affected, said Todd Boyette, director of the planetarium and science center. 

According to the planetarium's website, all public operations have been suspended until further notice due to the University's closure in response to COVID-19. Boyette said the planetarium's own summer camps have been canceled this summer. 

“Normally, we have a full on-site summer science camp program,” Boyette said. “This is not a normal summer, of course. With the campus shutdowns and everything, all of that was canceled.”

Hogue said another very important aspect of Science in the Summer is to combat “summer slide,” the learning gap that occurs when students, especially low-income students, are out of school for summer vacation.

“I definitely think it’s important to keep them in that learning mindset,” Hogue said. 

Regardless of the planetarium's limits during the pandemic, Boyette said at least in this one way, he is glad it can still service the community.

“Our main goal is to address the summer slide,” Boyette said. “We hope that families engage with Morehead in other ways, but at the very least we want to provide that service to them.”

@DTHCityState |

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