Scheduling challenge leads to a detailed Scobee tour for elementary students

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Fifth-grader Sofia Lynton, 10, illuminates the teeth of classmate Shaelyn Marks, 10, using a temperature reader gun with her hand in a glove box in the space station during the VIP grand opening of Scobee Education Center Oct. 31, 2014. Students from Scobee Elementary were selected for a field trip to the center. File

Students at this college can visit the planetarium for $2 on Fridays.

By Rogelio Escamilla

Dilley Elementary School students traveled 73 miles to visit Scobee Planetarium Feb. 26.

The tour for 74 fifth-graders and more than five chaperones was led by center Director Rick Varner; He explained NASA missions and astronauts in the main floor of Scobee Education Center.

The planetarium is inside the larger center, which also includes the Challenger Learning Center and observatory.

Varner said the Dilley field trip didn’t go as planned.

“The students were supposed to just visit the planetarium,” he said. “Dilley was running late, so we had them switch time spots with a different school that was early so they could get the most out of their experience.”

The school they switched with was Gonzales High School’s astronomy club, which arrived early to the planetarium.

Varner said scheduling difficulty left the Dilley group with additional time as the Gonzales students were already in the planetarium after switching their time spots.

The Dilley students were then split into two groups.

One was given the tour inside, the other took part in a solar system scale activity between Lot 21 and the center.

The activity teaches students about distances between planets using metal plaques, engraved with the names of planets, embedded in the sidewalk.

James Russell

Some of the items he explained to the students included a 16 mm film that documented the medical examinations of astronauts who went to the moon, a painting of astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his autograph, the Apollo moon missions and moon rocks that are locked in a safe in the center.

Edward Austin, chaperone and social studies teacher, said the last time he visited was in 1967 or 1968.

“I remember coming here back when the Tower of Americas was being built,” Austin said.

“The planetarium now is way more advanced. It has more visual effects. It’s crazy the technology their generation has now; it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the future.”

The planetarium was remodeled 2012-2014, when the Challenger Center was opened.

Paraprofessional chaperone Odessa Mata said taking a fifth-grade field trip to Scobee has been a tradition at Dilley.

“This is also my first time visiting here,” she said. “My hope is they can learn more than what they can in the classroom. They get to see more hands-on, more advanced things than what they get to see inside a classroom.”

Patrick Lanclos, member of the San Antonio Astronomical Association, guides Tré Newsoma, 11, look through one of the telescopes set up Feb. 6, 2009, next to Scobee Education Center. File

Mata said this is her first year teaching fifth-graders.

Parent chaperone Troy Gonzales said he visited Scobee when he was in school in Pearsall in 1998 or 1999.

“I hope they learn more about the astronauts,” he said. “And the amount of time and effort it takes them to do just one thing. That’s pretty crazy.”

Varner said Scobee doesn’t typically do random tours.

Students and employees at this college can visit the planetarium for $2 on Friday evenings. All that’s required is an Alamo Colleges ID.

The education center is free to enter and walk around, and the observatory is open 10 p.m. Fridays, depending on the weather.

School groups visiting the planetarium Monday-Thursday usually get a reduced rate of $100 per 32 individuals.


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