Stamford Nature Center Launches Planetarium and Astronomy Center

above: The Planetarium and Astronomy Center at the Nature Center now has a center for STEAM education with state-of-the-art technology in a 10,600-square-foot space.

STEAM projects are exploding in Stamford. And now inquisitive kids of all ages have access to science resources at the new Planetarium and Astronomy Center at the Stamford Museum & Nature Center.

In May, a Stamford High School team of seniors won first place in a research symposium for GLOBE, or U.S. Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment. The team won for their nanotechnology project titled “The Efficacy of Graphene in Preventing Gamma Radiation on Cancer Cells.” Over two days, 12 teams presented the results of their research to STEAM professionals. (The acronym for this educational approach, by the way, stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.) “It was an eye-opening experience regarding how many students want to work on these issues,” says Ryan Schoztic, who represented Stamford High School at the competition. “When we returned, so many people asked me how they could join the program. It seems like it catches itself on fire and inspires others to work to solve issues that plague society.”

Students like Schoztic will have the opportunity to deepen STEAM studies soon The Planetarium and Astronomy Center recently relaunched as a center for STEAM education, with state-of-the-art technology in a new 10,600-square-foot space designed to educate students from grade school to college. Notably, the center offers earth science and geology programming along with extensive solar education.

The 100-seat Planetarium Theater will host weekly astronomy nights, with dazzling views of the planets and half a million stars, as well as evenings to view highlights from the astronomical calendar, such as a lunar or solar eclipse. Streaming technology will give visitors a front seat to live events happening in the night sky, such as a meteor shower or a streaking comet from telescopes in different parts of the world.

Enriched school programs with new science and astronomy curricula at the center include Planetarium shows, a Science Lab designed to bring physical science alive and STEAM-based after school programming. A girls-only Science Camp will offer hands-on workshops in the areas of force and motion, energy, engineering and astronomy. The Nature Center’s Scientific Advisory Council will expand school and college networks and promote the sharing of resources.

“It’s a real game-changer for us to have offerings that are multifaceted and technology that allows in-depth programming for students,” says Lisa Monachelli, director of education at the Nature Center. “Older students will have access to solar and lunar telescopes, connections to personnel in different areas of the astronomy community, and the ability to connect to research done both locally and nationally.”

A state-wide platform launched by the Governor’s Office and the Office of Higher Education called Education and STEAM is yet another resource for students to tap. Created to encourage young women to enter science fields, it gives girls in Connecticut access to internships, training programs and professional networks.

Girls can read profiles and watch videos of women who work in this area, including a solar engineer and an AI researcher. Additional links map out the path from school to entry level jobs, so students see the coursework they need to make the leap to a promising career.

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