Friday, August 04, 2000

Kids go out of this world

Astronomy program teaches children about the planets

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BURLINGTON — To mark Kevin Morrison's ninth birthday today, a few of his friends sent him on a trip to Saturn.

        Never mind that the second-largest planet in the solar system is about 800 million miles from Earth, or that it can't support humans.

        Kevin visited Saturn on Thursday, courtesy of an imaginary journey offered through the new Dinsmore Discovery Days program.

        As the Edgewood youth stood in the middle of a log cabin at the historic Dinsmore Homestead in Burlington, Education Director Jordan O'Rylee led him through “a planetary dress-up”that showed the adaptations he would have to make to survive on Saturn.

        By the end of the exer cise, Kevin was wearing a hat, scarf and gloves to symbolize Saturn's bitterly cold temperatures. He carried an oxygen tank to deal with an atmosphere that is mostly hydrogen, wore flippers to paddle through the gaseous planet, and held a rope to lash himself to his spaceship when winds reached up to 1,100 mph.

        “Now all he needs is a space shuttle,” said Jacob Slagle, 9, of Crestview Hills.

        Thursday's daylong astronomy adventure was the first of what organizers hope will be many such summer programs for Northern Kentucky children who have completed grades three through five.

        “We want to show people that there's more stuff you can do at Dinsmore than just the house tour,” Ms. O'Rylee said.

        The Dinsmore Homestead, about 6 miles west of Burlington on Ky. 18, is best known for its 1842 farm and historic home.

        On Thursday, the boys in the astronomy program walked a mile on the homestead's grounds to gain perspective on the size of the planets and their distance from one another.

        From Mars' position in the flower garden, Mercury, represented by a sign marked by a dot the size of a pinhead, could be seen only through binoculars, they noted.

        Aspiring scientist Ricky Johnson of Florence also was curious to learn when Halley's Comet would return to Earth. (Sorry Ricky, not until 2062).

        “When they leave here, I hope they have a better awareness of what they're looking at at night, the size of (the solar system), and how it all came to be,” Ms. O'Rylee said. “Above all, I hope they develop a new respect for how special our planet is to support life.”


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