Fourth-grade students learn astronomy at Keystone Science School |

Fourth-grade students learn astronomy at Keystone Science School

Summit Daily/Janice KurbjunLearning about planet size with Play Doh at Keystone Science School.

The fourth graders stepped into a darkened annex to the Keystone Science School dining hall on Wednesday, took their seats and listened as programs intern Andrea Seymour talked to them about rods and cones in their eyes.

She handed out shapes and markers, and asked students to guess their colors.

Then she asked students to close their eyes, turn toward their neighbor, open their eyes and see how clearly they could see their partner’s face after 30 seconds.

When she turned on the lights in one of the most popular of the evening’s activities, the students exclaimed at how far off their color guesses were.

The point is, humans can’t see color – nor can they really focus on shapes – in the dark.

“Our eyes work better with peripheral vision than straight on” in the dark,” Seymour said, explaining that, when looking through a telescope, it’s best to not look directly at the object in view.

Wednesday was the third evening astronomy enrichment activity the science school has done for local elementary schools, this time with a few dozen Frisco Elementary students. Upper Blue, Silverthorne and Dillon Valley nights are next week, on March 7, 8 and 10, respectively.

So far, the events – Breckenridge, Summit Cove and Frisco – have seen attendance from more than 75 percent of the students eligible to attend, Seymour said.

Seymour’s internship requires a key project, and she decided on building the astronomy curriculum. She opted for it partly because the curriculum needed to be rebuilt and partly because, as state standards change, teachers can use a hand in adequately conveying concepts to students.

“This helps because I’ve never taught (the solar system)” to fourth-graders, said Martha Herwehe, a fourth grade teacher at Frisco Elementary. She said she’s touched on the subject for kindergartners, but the needed materials and extent of subject material differs greatly for the older children.

“It fit perfectly” for the science school to offer the enrichment activity, she said. She added that the students will get a double dose of the material through another camp later in the year.

Transportation to and from the elementary schools is available on a need basis to ensure the program is open to all. Shuttles pick up participants at 6:40 p.m. and return them at 9 p.m.

The Keystone Science School is also allocating scholarship money to Summit County fourth graders to attend the school’s “Party Like a Rock Star” week of day camp dedicated to astronomy and geology study.

The program is funded through the Daniels-Houlton Family Foundation grant, school programs director Dave Miller said.

Other activities included:

• Sammy the star – a dramatic re-enaction of the life cycle of stars;

• Planet distances – students map out relative distances between orbs in space;

• Build a constellation – learn the stories behind the stars, draw your own and tell its story;

• Observatory – demonstrate how the telescope works;

• Play-Doh planets – learn the relative sizes of planets; and

• Glue stick sunsets and moon phases – learn how light diffuses through clouds and the atmosphere to create dawn and dusk light, and move a sphere through an orbit to watch the phases change.

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