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Let kids follow their dreams

February 13, 2009|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

When my son brought home a paper from his science teacher detailing how he could earn extra credit by attending the planetarium program "The Stargazer," we checked our calendar and made plans with friends to attend the show.

It was such a nice evening. I would recommend it as a worthwhile family experience.

The program, which is presented by the William M. Brish Planetarium of the Washington County Public Schools, will take place again on Tuesdays, Feb. 17 and 24, at 7 p.m.

If you go, you will be encouraged to check out many aspects of the winter sky.

These days, for example, if you look to the west on a clear night, you will be able to see the planet Venus. To the north, you can see the Big Dipper as it appears to stand on its handle.

Studying the stars can be a fun family activity, and with 2009 being the International Year of Astronomy, we each could try to learn a little more about the night sky.

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This year marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo Galilei's first use of an astronomical telescope. (See a video about the event at www.astronomy.com.) According to the International Year of Astronomy Web site, www.astronomy2009.org, the aim of the year is to stimulate interest, especially among young people, in astronomy and science under the central theme "The Universe, Yours to Discover."

"The International Year of Astronomy is designed to get you involved in astronomy, so take advantage of it," Rodney Martin, Washington County Public Schools planetarium resource teacher, said during Tuesday's program.

"The Stargazer" is narrated by Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Uhura on "Star Trek." The program profiles James Kaler, a professor at the University of Illinois who is regarded as an authority in astronomy education.

As an 8-year-old, Kaler became fascinated with the night sky. His fourth-grade teacher had placed some star stickers on one of his papers. He asked his grandmother whether real stars had points. They gazed at the sky together, and she helped him to realize that stars are round, not pointy.

A few years later, at age 13, Kaler purchased his first telescope. His love for studying the stars and planets led him to a career in astronomy, even though a high school counselor once asked him, "Who is going to pay you to be a stargazer?"

It never ceases to amaze me what kids can become if we allow them to follow their dreams.

Admission to the planetarium show is $3 for adults and $2 for children. There is a $10 maximum for families. For more information, go to www.wcboe.k12.md.us/content/d_i_planet.cfm. You might notice that the Web site lists "Stargazer" as being offered through Feb. 17. Martin said the program's last date actually is Feb. 24.

Martin also will give a program at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at Discovery Station, 101 W. Washington St., in Hagerstown. He will present the "Premier Unveiling of Hubble Telescope Images" in cooperation with NASA's Great Observatories program, which releases images from three space-based telescopes. For information, call 301-790-0076.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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