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Close encounter for Oakley youngsters

September 25, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Forgoing the years of study and training traditionally necessary, the students at J.W. Oakley Primary School here transformed into astronauts for 45-minute tours of the universe Monday and today.

Despite looking like a giant foil Jiffy Pop bubble, the inflatable Starlab Planetarium brought to the school's cafeteria by Mobile Ed Productions, Inc. of Michigan was the perfect setting to fire up students' imaginations with the amazing reality of outer space.

Someone must have tipped off second-grader Ivan Urias as he waited to enter the planetarium's entrance tunnel because he seemed to have a pretty good idea what he'd find inside.

"A star," Ivan said, smiling a toothless grin.

In the interior darkness, Mobile Ed Productions Instructor Shelton Basham combined slides of nebulas and galaxies with a good helping of energy and enthusiasm to bring the far reaches of space into the minds of his audience members.


For students more familiar with Buzz Lightyear than Buzz Aldrin, the presentation exposed them to a lot of new information.

Though second-grader Jonathan Davila admitted after the presentation he didn't remember all the constellations pointed out to him, he had a good time.

"It was fun. I saw the Milky Way and the Big and Little Dipper," Jonathan said.

The universe is an interesting topic for kids because it's so unfamiliar to them, Basham said. Whereas anyone can get on an airplane and fly across the country, only about 124 people have been in space.

"It's something they (the kids) haven't encountered before," Basham said.

Whether using a laser pointer to outline constellations projected onto the planetarium's ceiling and walls or demonstrating the force of a distant planet's winds, Basham said he still enjoys his job after 10 years.

"I get to get kids excited about science," Basham said.

Oakley typically hosts two Mobile Ed Production presentations on varying subjects each year. Bringing in outside educators is a beneficial complement to an already excellent teaching staff, Principal Craig Casey said.

"I want to give them (the students) as much educational experience as I can to open up the world to them," Casey said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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