Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Lycoming College planetarium takes third graders on a trip around the solar system

Lycoming College planetarium takes third graders on a trip around the solar system

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Lycoming College’s Detwiler Planetarium recently welcomed third grade students from Donald E. Schick Elementary School for their end-of-the-year educational field trip. Led by Lycoming College’s Planetarium director, Lauren Balliet, the class learned how to navigate the night sky, phases of the moon, planets that can be seen in the early morning sky, and the scale of the solar system and universe.

“Having the opportunity to educate younger members in the greater Williamsport community is a rewarding experience,” said Balliet. “Many times, it is their first visit to a planetarium, and they fill the dome with bursts of joyful exuberance during the show.”

Nearly 130 students visited the planetarium. In addition to a planetarium show, the field trip consisted of a hands-on activity, a Pocket Solar System, led by the Society of Physics Students president Amber Elinsky ’23. Each student was given a long piece of receipt paper for them to draw the solar system on as Elinsky discussed each planet and celestial object. “The kids loved it,” said Elinsky. “I was peppered with questions about the various planets and how we study them.”

Many students shared their exciting thoughts about their visit to the planetarium. Read what some of the students had to say:

  • “I liked the dome because it felt like I was on a spaceship. It felt like the moon and sun were getting closer.” – Arabella
  • “I think it was amazing. I’ve never seen a constellation in my life. Then they showed me tons of constellations and planets. I loved it!” – Nathan
  • “It was so fun because I loved looking at the ceiling and to look at the planets. It is really worth it, you will have a blast.” – Drew
  • “The planetarium is amazing. I recommend going. It is clean fun and the pictures are amazing.” – Nora

Drawn to scale, the activity gives students an understanding of the immensity of the solar system. Balliet’s plan and inspiration for the activity came from Emily Wilson, a recently hired professor, who originally performed a similar activity during her mock lecture at the College.

“My hope for them after their visit is that they stay curious to the many answered, and unanswered, questions about our universe,” Balliet said. “I truly enjoy answering all their inquisitive questions.”

In addition to serving faculty and students, Detwiler Planetarium is available to the greater Williamsport community as an aid in astronomical studies in the classroom and for multimedia presentations. More information on the planetarium can be found here:

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