6th grade studies the stars at museum

Liliana Greyf and Katya Tolunsky

Sixth grade students visited the Natural History Museum to further their knowledge of astronomy last Tuesday as the first few months of their science course are dedicated to the study of astronomy and to introducing the earth in perspective to other planets.

Middle School (MD) science teacher Jodi Hill, who organized the trip, thought that the trip was a great experience for the students because it provided them with an understanding of the importance of astronomy, she said. “I think the fact that there is so much space at this museum dedicated to astronomy shows them how important other people in the world think it is,” Hill said.

“The trip is important because it is difficult to perform experiments for astronomy,” Dean of the Class of 2025 Michelle Amilicia said. “I think going to the museum and experiencing things live is helpful when kids are learning a science that is difficult to study hands on.”

The students were asked to rate each exhibit they visited, and comment on what they enjoyed or would like to have changed, Amilicia said.

“The exhibit I rated the highest was an ecosystem on a meteor representing the attempt to have shrimp living on other planets,” Lexi Lawsky (6) said. “I thought the way it connected what we learned in class and other things I am interested in was really cool.”

Many students found the planetarium to be the most exciting part of the exhibit, as it was hands on and interactive.“The planetarium was my favorite part of the visit,” Rena Salsberg (6) said. “I felt like it gave us more insight than we could have had just in a classroom.”

Maddie Offit (6) thought “it was really fun when we went to the planetarium because it helped add on to our knowledge of astronomy,” she said.

Hill believes the exhibits that were more hands on and visual were favored among the students. “The kids two favorite exhibits were the planetarium and the meteors because there were things they could really see and touch,” Hill said.

The trip works so well “because of the amount of resources we have available to us,” Amilicia said. “We are lucky enough to be teaching astronomy in a city that has one of the world’s best natural history museums,” Hill said.

The trip was first implemented 18 years ago and has since developed into an experience that complements the 6th grade science curriculum. “In the 18 years that we have been doing this trip, there have been a lot of new discoveries and changes in the field of astronomy, so that is reflected in our trips as well,” Hill said.

Over the years, the expectations of the children has changed. “We have modified the trip a lot,” Amilicia said. “15 years ago the students were asked more to gather information, but that has now evolved into analyzing exhibits instead,”.

Not only has the world of astronomy evolved, the way kids are taught to see it has also developed. “We have moved away from really focused individualized questions and have begun to ask them to evaluate the exhibit and say what they liked or didn’t,” Hill said. The students had a chance to discuss what they liked and didn’t like about the trip in their classrooms in order to improve the trip for future years, she said.

“We actually changed the trip into more of a creative project where the students would create a planet modeled off one of the current planets that is in our solar system,” Amilicia said.

“The trip was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed it,” Oliver Konopko (6) said.