OH WOW! center uses a model approach to teaching astronomy
By ELISE McKEOWN SKOLNICK
Typically, models of the solar system focus on rotation. A project at the OH WOW! Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology took a different approach, however.
As part of their twice-monthly “make it” offerings, kids could make a linear model of the solar system Saturday at the center on West Federal Street.
“The idea is to get kids making things, and at the same time we’re learning a little bit about things,” said Audra Carlson, education manager. “This month our theme is astronomy. So the focus is on making a solar system.”
Participants cut out pictures of the eight planets, learned facts about them using an interactive computer program, and then created a to-scale linear model.
Starting with the sun, they taped each planet and a fact about it on a string, creating a garland.
“So, hopefully, they’ll take it home and decorate their room or their Christmas tree with it,” Carlson said.
The project encourages children to learn about mathematics as well as the solar system.
“We’re dealing with the metric system,” Carlson said. “We’re trying to get them exposed to that younger.”
It’s also important to introduce children to new topics, she said.
“You never know what’s going to spark their interest,” she said. “For some kids it could be our solar system; for some kids the scaling could turn them on to math.”
Madison Sheffield, 8, of Austintown was excited about making the model solar system. She chose her favorite colors, purple and blue, for the yarn to make her garland.
“I like all the planets,” she said. Jupiter is her favorite.
“Because it’s the biggest one, and it has the classic red spot,” she explained.
Facts about the solar system aren’t new to Madison. She enjoys learning about it on her own. She placed the planets in order without help, knew that Saturn has a ring around it, and that Earth has gravity, as well as knowing Jupiter is the largest.
She plans to pursue a career in marine biology or astronomy.
She did learn something new at OH WOW!, she said.
She learned that Mercury turns very slowly on its axis, taking 59 days to complete the turn from day to night.
Her dad, Scott Sheffield of Cincinnati, said the program is a great idea.
“Some people are expressing interest in science at a very early age, and this allows you to help foster that interest,” he said.