City fifth-graders visit observatory

June 11, 2012


A group of fifth-graders from Albert Harris Elementary School recently had an out-of-this-world experience at Primland during a visit to the observatory.

Scott Martin, director of astronomy at the Patrick County resort, led students five stories up to the observatory dome, where he gave a presentation about how the universe works and showed students deep-space photos of galaxies and exploding stars. Martin explained how stars are born and the different ways they die, depending on size.

Although daylight prevented students from observing the stars through the telescope, they had the chance to look at sunspots through a telescope set up outside.

The trip was a reward for 18 advanced students who did well in a recent school math tournament.

“It was a treat for them,” said advanced learning teacher Violet Nelson. “The staff at Primland has been wonderful. (Martin) answered all their questions, anything they wanted to know about astronomy. He covered a lot of our SOLs (state Standards of Learning).”

The curriculum for several elementary grades deals with topics such as space, the moon and stars, Nelson said.

Primland gave the tour at no charge to the school. Martin called it an “investment” in the community, hoping to “advance the cause of science” for local youth.

“We have a great commitment to community involvement,” he said. “We want to make sure that youth of all backgrounds have a chance to come up here and learn. ... Hopefully it will be beneficial to the kids.”

Students were especially interested in hearing about what might happen in a black hole and the discovery of other Earth-like planets. Normandy Evans was full of questions for Martin about everything from where asteroids come from to the size of the sun and the overall size of the universe. Her interest was piqued when he explained supernovae, explosions of large dying stars.

“I liked learning that stars can blow up,” she said afterward.

“The place was really nice, and I liked learning about the stars,” said Tyrese Vaughn.

David Betanzo said he learned “that stars can collide with each other” and liked “how the roof of the observatory moves.” Looking through the telescope outside, he said, “It was really cool, ’cause I could see the sunspots.”

Other math tournament students who took part in the trip were Taylar Brown, Khiaran Carter, Logan Courtney, Nigal Davis, Julia Eanes, Ki’shia Galloway, Alaysia Gravely, Latroya Gravely, Nikia Greene, Asgian Hairston, Jovana Hernandez, Vegas Jamison, Mi’Kayla Menefee, Guadalupe Rivera and Khadesha Ross.

Editor’s note: Kim Barto is community outreach and grants coordinator for the Martinsville Schools.


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