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Art&Seek Jr: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
by Therese Powell 26 Jun 2012

The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. Visit one of the local planetariums so you and the kids will know just how big and bright they are.

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Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself. Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

I know I’m dating myself, but I was lucky enough to be a kid during the height of the Apollo space program. One of my earliest memories was the night of July 20, 1969.  The adults were gathered around the television in the living room holding their breath as Neil Armstrong took those first historic steps on the moon. The kids, meanwhile, seized the opportunity to run around the neighborhood well after dark, since we were completely forgotten. I still remember flopping down in the back yard with my friends and looking up at the moon that hot night. We thought if we looked hard enough, we could see Neil and Apollo 11 up there on the surface of the moon. And we wondered aloud how long it would be until we made our own space trip. I also remember the sense of pride I felt. We were the first county to put a man on the moon! How cool is that? But I wasn’t the only one excited – every kid I knew was completely caught up. We drank our Tang, because that’s what the Astronauts drank in space. And we ate our Quisp cereal, because the flakes looked like little flying saucers. More importantly we were INSPIRED. All of a sudden, kids of my generation wanted to become scientists and engineers so they could conquer the stars, just like Neil and Buzz.

Take in some star-gazing with your little ones at a local planetarium.

Years later, the call for math-based careers is greater than ever, and STEM curriculum has replaced the readin’, ritin’ and ‘rithmetic basics of my generation. To me,  the challenge we face now isn’t so much in how to educate our kids for those technology-based jobs waiting for them. It’s how do we INSPIRE them to WANT those jobs. A great way to spark those budding astrophysicists in your life is a visit to one of  the many planetariums in North Texas.

The Noble Planetarium at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History has a wonderful introductory astronomy program for kids ages 3 to 7. In One World, One Sky Big Bird, Elmo and their friend Hu Hu Zhu introduce children to the night sky and very basic astronomy. The trio locate the Big Dipper, the North Star and the moon in the night sky. They invite kids to use their imaginations to explore the moon, return to earth and discover that even though we live far away, we all live under the same sky.

Bigger kids will enjoy Stars of the Pharaohs at the planetarium at The University of Texas at Arlington. Visitors travel to ancient Egypt to see how science was used to tell time, make a workable calendar and align huge buildings. You’ll learn about the connection the ancient Egyptians felt with the stars and various astronomical phenomena.

Rose and I checked out the Texas Night Sky show at the Planetarium at the Museum of Nature and Science last Sunday. It lacks a lot of the razzle-dazzle of some of the newer shows, but it’s a good introduction to the night sky as it may appear tonight in your own back yard. Kids learn which planets, stars and constellations are currently visible, the unique stories behind their names, and tips on how to locate them in the night sky. I can’t say that afterwards Rose was dying to get home so we could flop in our own back yard and look up at the stars. But she did ask if we could download the planetarium app for the IPad. To me, that’s one small step in the right direction.

Therese Powell is an Art&Seek calendar coordinator and KERA-TV producer. She spends most of her free time seeking out adventures for her 7-year-old daughter, Rose. Tell us about your favorite star-gazing places or clue us in to your ideas for quirky kid adventures by leaving a comment. Or e-mail Therese at [email protected]

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