"What everyone in the astronaut corps shares in common is not gender or background, but motivation, perseverance, and desire: the desire to participate in a voyage of discovery."
Ellen Ochoa

Volunteers - why we love Planetarium!

The Osceola Sexton planetarium program at Wood Acres Elementary School has been operated, funded and maintained by the PTA and parent/grandparent volunteers since 1982.   In 2013, over 110 parents and grandparents dedicate their time and talents to this unique volunteer program. 

What drives their motivation, dedication and love to keep the dream and mystery of stars and space alive for students?

Read, in their own words, why parents faithfully return each year to teach about space and the stars:

Mike Barnes - "I love both the dome and the lesson. Under the dome, the kids listen with such rapt attention to the constellation mythology stories you could hear a pin drop. And the lesson is a real opportunity for kids to learn a little bit about the wonder of astronomy—there’s no need to dress up the subject matter because space and the physics of space is filled with such amazing things. While we do follow rough lesson plans, planetarium volunteers can make the principal focus of the “class” FUN. When the class goes well (as it almost always does) the kids will learn some really neat things AND have HUGE amount of fun while doing it. It’s really gratifying - that’s what learning should always be like.  Of course, I have so much fun in Planetarium too! I love learning about space myself, and I love teaching what I’ve learned to the kids. It’s been an absolute blast. And I’ll be really, really sad when it’s over, too." (2015)

Antara Basu-Zych - "My first initiation into astronomy was the solar system scale model lesson in 4th grade. Now, as an astronomer working at NASA, I enjoy volunteering for the Planetarium because I love seeing the same expressions of wonder and curiosity for the universe in the faces of those kids that I teach -- they serve as great reminders of why I decided to pursue a career in this amazing science!" (2015)

Jason Weller - "I volunteered to help teach at Wood Acres planetarium program because it was an easy and fun way to contribute and give back to the school.  It's a ton of fun to work with the kids and introduce them to new science concepts and broaden their horizons (both literally and figuratively).  And I've learned a lot about our solar system and the cosmos along the way." (2015)

Oznur O. Kuntasal - "When I was a child, space was my passion. I used to read space science magazines and Stephen Hawking’s books. I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. I couldn’t achieve my dream of being an astronaut and going to space but now I have a chance to teach and learn more about space and visiting constellations under the dome. And seeing the passion of the space in the eyes of the little kids is a bonus. I love volunteering in the Planetarium." (2015)

Scott Wilkerson - "I love teaching planetarium because it makes me feel closer to my daughters. I get to see them interact with their friends and have fun in a learning environment.  It makes them very proud to see their dad up there teaching the other kids.  I always try to make it funny and that makes the kids happy.  I always leave with a warm fuzzy after teaching a session, and I appreciate how special the planetarium is." (2015)

Carol Simon – “Astronomy is a cross discipline. It pulls every interest and develops skills, and teaches a person a new meaning in creativity. It draws art, history, culture science, and literature together. All you need is what’s outside your back door every night. It’s everywhere and everything. People you meet are incredible. Astronomy is across culture and across time. The planetarium allowed me to teach to my children all this and more. And the beauty of this program is that it’s not asking you to teach any more to your child than what you learn.” (2005)

Lise Beske - "What I love most is telling stories under the dome, using the constellations as a launch pad to weave in heroes, dragons and minataurs. One year, when I had kids in kindergarten, 3rd Grade and 5th Grade, I conspired to teach all three classes in a single month. I told the same stories with different levels of complexity, ickiness and drama to 75 kids! My kids love the fact that we can go on vacation anywhere and their mom can point out Pegasus or the summer triangle in the night sky. They have an abiding interest in astronomy to this day." (2013)

Alicia Hatcher wrote the following email after teaching Planetarium for the first time - "I want to tell you what my daughter said shen she came off the school bus this afternoon:  "That was SUCH a great Planetarium lesson.  It was AWESOME!!!"  And over dinner she recited word for word the two dome stories I told as well as (my teaching partner's) Zodiac lesson.  I was amazed!  I share this with you because it goes to show that even though we may be unsure of our abilities to teach astronomy, or to teach any lesson, we need not worry because the students are excited just to be in the Planetarium!  They are thrilled to learn even the slightest details about the stars and the planets.  Whatever we teach as Planetarium volunteers, whether on a grand or small scale, we are appreciated by our young apprentices and most certainly serve the greater community merely by our presence for fifty minutes in the Osceola Sexton Planetarium...after 15 years at Wood Acres, I regret waiting until my final year here to be a Planetarium volunteer.  Thank you to all of you who encourage our children to reach for the stars through your lessons." (2012)

Richard Hagerty - "I loved the chance to interact with the kids and to learn with them while they were learning. It is particularly fun to watch them grow and develop from year to year. I encourage every parent to take part in this wonderful resource." (2013)

Gail Manes- "As someone who has trouble locating the constellations in the night sky, I was initially daunted by the thought of teaching Planetarium. But I was eager to find a way into the classroom and found the class materials so well prepared that it quickly became a key piece of my volunteer activities. Planning the session with your child is a lot of fun - and makes you realize how much they know! So - don't let your initial lack of knowledge hold you back - jump in and volunteer!" (2013)

Dan Owen - "What can I say? Simply the heavenly dome, the magestical roof fretted with golden fire changed my life! Celestial and life transforming!" (2013)

Becky Berg – “I was there when the 1970’s space race began. Volunteering in the planetarium was a really nice way to get involved in your child’s class and learn astronomy with your child. It was motivational. Space was intriguing, and it was opening up in the 70’s. There was so much to see and explore. You learned with your child about space and the sky at the same time. And astronomy tied in astrology, mythology, history, other cultures, and music. It’s not just a hard science. It captured people’s imagination. And the planetarium was such a unique and personal setting for an intimate opportunity to teach the stars and space to your child and their classmates.” (2005)

Joanne Grady Husky – “The planetarium opened the heavens and the universe to the children. It was the best volunteer opportunity at Wood Acres ES. I had volunteered as a room parent, at the Arts and International Festivals, the Sock Hop, and at Bingo Night. Working at the planetarium has been the best. Not only did it give me an education in astronomy, but I was able to teach my children and their friends. Volunteers were working parents with full time jobs, mothers of preschoolers, people with no science background and science buffs. All it took was an interest in what was above our heads every night. It was a gift to oneself, a free education. What better way to spend your time?” (2005)

Trish Jarrell – “I volunteer for the planetarium because when my oldest son turned six, he heard that a famous astronomer had decided to be an astronomer when he was six. He wanted to grow up to be an astronomer. In light of that, I decorated his bedroom in a space theme, purchased books on the solar system and decided to help out in the planetarium this year. It’s very exciting teaching a group of kids who have been exposed to this science from kindergarten.” (2005)

Abigail Gorman – “I am a brand new volunteer and the parent of my first child at Wood Acres, a kindergarden student. A friend of mine with older kids and like me, a working mom, recommended it to me. I enjoy it because: There was a set time each week for six weeks. My work schedule is flexible enough to fit this in, where I couldn’t fit in a room parent job that would span the year. I could learn something new with my child. I would actually be with my child during the volunteer activity. I’d get to see him in his setting with his peers. It is a very nice opportunity to get to know other parents, particularly parents of kids in my son’s grade. It’s educationally oriented. I think it’s a great educational resource. We are lucky as parents to have it.” (2005)

Jason Jacobson - “I decided to volunteer for the planetarium for the following reasons: I like working with kids. Having coached youth baseball for 10+ years, it is a way to take that passion into a classroom setting. With a fairly demanding job, this is a way to volunteer in the school without an excessive commitment of weekday time. It's easier to find time to prepare for the sessions at night and on the weekends but I am not able to get away from the office all that often. Space has always interested me as a subject that is fun to learn about, and is so completely different from what I do on a day-to-day basis. It's good for my son to see his dad involved in something other than sports. In fact, I feel that it is good for the kids to see some dads helping out in the school.” (2005)



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