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Stars align for students at Matunuck School

January 26, 2011

Photo By Shaun Kirby Matunuck Elementary School students gather around a portable planetarium on Monday at the school.

MATUNUCK–“Oohs” and “aahs” rang out from the giant bubble sitting in the middle of the gymnasium at Matunuck Elementary School. The planetarium was back for its annual visit.

“It was awesome,” said third grade student Lauren Boettger as she emerged from the dark entrance of the inflatable planetarium.

The students gazed at the stars, sitting under the night sky projected upon the plastic canvas above. All the familiar characters were there: Orion, Draco, even the Big and Little Bear. The images of planets, moons, and constellations flashed by quickly as Dr. Dennis Machnik rattled off facts for half an hour about the heavenly bodies we see nightly.
“There’s no quiz afterwards,” said Dr. Machnik with a smile.

Dr. Machnik, a Physics professor at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, acquired the mobile planetarium six years ago. Today, he sees about 3,000 students at 20 schools per year. Dr. Machnik’s idea was to give younger students a chance to experience astronomy as his own students did at Plymouth State University’s permanent planetarium.

“We want to cover the standards taught to [the students],” he stated, “and get rid of misconceptions.”

For more information pick up a copy of The Narragansett Times.

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