Science center brings SolarQuest to Osborne Elementary

Bobby Cherry
| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:09 p.m.

Osborne Elementary School students went to infinity and beyond without leaving the school's gym.

Through the Carnegie Science Center's Science on the Road department, kindergarten through fifth-grade students one day last month learned about the solar system using hands-on learning stations — including tabletop explorations for individual students, as well as small groups — that reinforced and scientific concepts related to heliophysics and the NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory.

“They get a little bit of science, but mainly it's just exploring what the materials are,” said Carnegie Science Center Education Coordinator Marilyn Fitzsimmons.

Included in the program was a 10-minute, digital planetarium show featuring a “fly-through” of the sun and earth environment through the use of a portable digital planetarium system.

Osborne served as a pilot school for the science center's SolarQuest program, said Keri Medwid, manager of the Science on the Road department and a Leet resident.

“This is a learning experience for us,” she said. “It's good because we have to figure out how to tweak it and figure out what would work better.”

The program was created through a $764,000 grant science center leaders received in 2011 from NASA to develop innovative programming for education and public outreach in heliophysics — an environmental science that combines meteorology and astrophysics, science center spokeswoman Susan Zimecki said.

Osborne teacher Gary Shepard said the program helps teachers to reinforce science lessons.

“It's so important in the 21st century to have these science and technology skills,” he said.

“It's a great way to start them at a younger age by exposing them to the hands-on activities. Hopefully they'll be lifelong learners in science and math and technology.”

The science center offers more than 50 programs through the Science on the Road department — ranging from large-scale assemblies such as the one Osborne students participated in, and also classroom-level and event programs.

Corporate sponsorship helps to lower the costs of providing programs to schools, Medwid said.

“With schools struggling (financially), we want them to still be able to bring the programming to their students. We don't want them to struggle,” she said. “We just want the kids be able to have some educational programs.”

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or

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