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Reserve Valentine's Day dinner with a side of stars, moon at North Hills fundraiser

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

This Valentine's Day, the students in North Hills High School's Astronomy Club are offering the moon and the stars — along with dinner.

The Astronomy Club will serve chicken Parmesan, pasta and salad in the cafeteria at the school, 53 Rochester Road, Ross Township. Star-covered tablecloths, electric candles and flower centerpieces will help set the mood.

Proceeds from the dinner will go toward the cost of the Astronomy Club's one-day trip to the Challenger Learning Center in Wheeling, W.Va., in March or April.

The cost is $12 for an adult dinner or $8 for a child's pasta dinner without chicken.

The food will be catered by the district's food services department.

After eating, diners can watch a show in the high school's planetarium, which has a 24-foot dome.

“We'll intertwine the use of our optical-mechanical projector, six slide projectors and video projector to show the movie and project constellations and a miniature sky across the dome ceiling,” said Buck Batson, a retired North Hills chemistry teacher who unofficially assists his wife — astronomy teacher Sue Batson — with the running of the planetarium.

Seatings will be offered at 5:30, 6:15 and 7 p.m.

After the 5:30 and 6:15 p.m. dinners, the featured show is “Her Seven Brothers.” Targeted toward children from preschool through elementary age, it tells a Cheyenne legend about a young Native American girl who travels to the North Country to find her seven brothers, but trouble ensues. The show lasts about 30 minutes.

After the 7 p.m. dinner, “Love Stories in the Stars” will be shown. Geared toward older children through adults, it tells the sagas of unrequited love and lovers' quarrels throughout mythology and shows the constellations names after mythological figures. The show also details space wonders, such as the Heart Nebula, and heart-shaped features on Earth. It lasts about 50 minutes.

“People will learn a lot through the story ... and they'll also learn about the stars,” Astronomy Club President Alicia Matos said.

And she expects club members to learn a lot from the trip to the Challenger Learning Center.

“We'll get to experience a simulation of a space mission,” said Matos, 18, a senior who lives in West View. “It's a three-hour-long program. We get to see what it's like inside the rocket and inside the command center.” Buck Batson said he expects 20 to 30 students to participate in the trip, which will cost about $1,000.

“We're hoping to raise half of that amount during this event,” explained Batson, 56, of Avalon.

“We're expecting a lot of families to attend. It's a great chance for elementary school kids to take their mom and dad out to a nice dinner and show.”

Space is limited, and reservations are required. Payments may be made in cash or with a check made out to the North Hills School District with “Astronomy Club” written on the memo line. Payments may be left at any school office in an envelope marked to the attention of Sue Batson. Delivery of a payment counts as a reservation, or people may call 412-318-1000, ext. 3166, or email, and drop off the payment later.

Planetarium shows also will be offered Feb. 5 and Feb. 11 without dinner.

“Her Seven Brothers” begins at 6:30. “Love Stories in the Stars” will be at 7:15 p.m.

Although those shows are free, reservations made by telephone or email are required. If no reservations have been made by the end of the last school day prior to the show, the presentation will be canceled.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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