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Thursday March 23rd, 2017

From the Cosmos to the Classrooms

Museum Reaches Out to Students

(Alamogordo, New Mexico, March 20, 2017) – Constellations exist in your head, not the sky. You have to think for robots. There’s no such thing as zero-g. And a soda straw helps show the complexity of the universe.

IMAGE: Students at East Picacho Elementary School in Las Cruces, NM, learn how the mind makes the patterns we think we see in the night sky, and how much of the universe remains for them to discover. (Photo by Dave Dooling, NMMSH)

Students at East Picacho Elementary School in Las Cruces, NM, learn how the mind makes the patterns we think we see in the night sky, and how much of the universe remains for them to discover. (Photo by Dave Dooling, NMMSH)

These and other insights have a common thread—space exploration—which the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo has been sharing with learners across the southwest for more than 40 years.

These and other insights have a common thread—space exploration—which the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo has been sharing with learners across the southwest for more than 40 years.

The museum’s biggest outreach activity recently has been with its new Digitarium Zeta portable digital planetarium system. It seats up to 40 kids and teachers and can be set up in any school. Engagements have included star shows for students in Las Cruces, La Luz and Ruidoso, and presenting Water: A Cosmic Mystery to hundreds of third-grade Alamogordo students in conjunction with their field trips to the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo. The planetarium also presented star shows at Tombaugh Elementary School in Las Cruces as part of a star party celebrating Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s birthday. It was purchased for the museum’s education department by the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation. Since January of this year, the portable planetarium has been in the classroom with more than 2500 students and nearly 400 teachers, from Moriarty to Socorro and everywhere in between.

The museum’s biggest outreach activity recently has been with its new Digitarium Zeta portable digital planetarium system. It seats up to 40 kids and teachers and can be set up in any school. Engagements have included star shows for students in Las Cruces, La Luz and Ruidoso, and presenting Water: A Cosmic Mystery to hundreds of third-grade Alamogordo students in conjunction with their field trips to the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo. The planetarium also presented star shows at Tombaugh Elementary School in Las Cruces as part of a star party celebrating Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s birthday. It was purchased for the museum’s education department by the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation. Since January of this year, the portable planetarium has been in the classroom with more than 2500 students and nearly 400 teachers, from Moriarty to Socorro and everywhere in between.

The museum’s biggest outreach activity recently has been with its new Digitarium Zeta portable digital planetarium system. It seats up to 40 kids and teachers and can be set up in any school. Engagements have included star shows for students in Las Cruces, La Luz and Ruidoso, and presenting Water: A Cosmic Mystery to hundreds of third-grade Alamogordo students in conjunction with their field trips to the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo. The planetarium also presented star shows at Tombaugh Elementary School in Las Cruces as part of a star party celebrating Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh’s birthday. It was purchased for the museum’s education department by the International Space Hall of Fame Foundation. Since January of this year, the portable planetarium has been in the classroom with more than 2500 students and nearly 400 teachers, from Moriarty to Socorro and everywhere in between.

First graders at Ruidoso’s Sierra Vista Primary School recently used clay and picnic knives to learn about robotic space medicine. The job was simple, or so it seemed. In pairs, one student would command another, the “robot,” to cut a piece of clay in half, as if the robot was operating on a sick astronaut on Mars. Each motion required a discrete command or the robot would keep cutting.

At the other end of the spectrum, an action camera, laptop computer, and special drop tower show that zero-g does not exist

We guide students through the discovery of gravity by Galileo, Newton, and Einstein,” Dooling said. “Then we use the drop tower to show how free-fall—the real effect—is equivalent to zero-g, and how that enables space research that connects to life on Earth.”

Audiences for The Awful Truth About Zero-G have ranged from second-graders in Ruidoso to scientists at Baylor University, which is developing its own drop tower, and teachers at the Space Exploration Educators Conference at Space Center Houston.

Other outreach events include laparoscopic surgery simulations at robotics competitions and school events, judging science fairs, building bridges from craft sticks, and holding an Alien Autopsy in Roswell.

“It’s fake bodies but real science,” said museum educator Michael Shinabery. “The moons of Jupiter and Saturn have liquid water and may have conditions for life. Alien Autopsy lets kids dissect something realistic, something that we might find on another world. They have fun while learning scientific investigation.”

And the soda straw?

“We’re adding 12-inch straws to our star shows,” Dooling said. “The view through the straw is about the size of the tiny, empty patch of sky where the Hubble Space Telescope discovered 3,000 galaxies lurking in deepest space. And the straw’s length is about how far light travels in a billionth of a second. These help tell kids how immense the universe is, and how much more is left for them to discover.”

The museum education department also offers classes on-site for field trips, along with the museum tour and theater showings. Visit the museum website or call the number below for more information about in-house and outreach activities that the education department has to offer, including how to book the Digitarium Planetarium for schools and events.

The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org. Like us at: www.facebook.com/NMSpaceMuseum/The New Mexico Museum of Space History, a Smithsonian Affiliate, is a division of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs. For more information, call 575-437-2840 or toll free 1-877-333-6589 or visit the website at www.nmspacemuseum.org. Like us at: www.facebook.com/NMSpaceMuseum