STARLAB’s return to local camp gives kids a rare opportunity

The portable inflatable planetarium STARLAB will be parking again at the Ahwatukee Swim & Tennis Center right in time for the 50th anniversary of man’s landing on the moon next week.

Kids have a chance to do something next week at the Ahwatukee Swim & Tennis Center that they can’t do in Phoenix: see the full radiance of the starlit night sky.

And they’ll be doing it right during the week that the world marks the 50th anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon.

For the second time this summer, Arizona State University is bringing STARLAB to the center, 4700 E. Warner Road, as part of its summer STEM and Sports Camp series – next week being “Space Week.”

The weeklong camps have been geared toward combining outdoor/indoor physical activity with programs aimed at interesting kids 6-12 in science, technology, engineering and math.

STARLAB is basically a inflatable portable planetarium.

But that description doesn’t do just to what it does, said Marni Anbar, who created the Discover Room at Colina Elementary and who has been working with ASU to conduct STARLAB visits the last five or six years at Colina Elementary and Cielo in Chandler.

“The kids love it,” said Anbar, a consultant who worked with the Swim & Tennis Center to arrange STARLAB’s appearances.

“The kids love the novelty of it,” she said. “It’s sort of magical. They see it inflate and a projector shows the night sky the way kids in urban areas never see it unless they go camping where there is no artificial light.

“They see the magnificence and the wonder of the universe.”

As they watch constellations change, the children also get to see the constellations and a guide takes them through a discussion of the Greek mythology behind those like Orion or Andromeda.

But then they begin to discuss how other cultures such as the Mayans and Chinese interpreted the same constellations and what stories from their heritage were attached to them.

But it doesn’t stop with a discussion of the stars and mythologies of ancient and contemporary cultures, Anbar noted.

“We also have science,” she said. “So we can ask them why Orion has a red star and a blue star.We stimulate that sense of wonder and then stimulate their curiosity.”

Center director Susan Hyden said kids next week “will learn about phases, eclipses, and features on the moon’s surface. With the anniversary of Apollo 11, we will explore the famous moon landings.

“When exploring the Earth, campers will learn about weather patterns, ocean currents, time zones, and current events. Guest educators will bring the Earth and moon to life,” she added, noting the week is “packed with experiments, creativity, diverse interactions, and physical activity.”

“This camp provides a wide variety of STEM activities that spark imagination, creativity, and learning in a fun and relaxed environment,” Hyden said, noting it “promotes kids to immerse themselves in a science and engineering-rich environment, with the goal being to stimulate a sustained interest in these disciplines.”

And they also can play tennis and swim.

The camp runs 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Monday through Friday. The cost is $220 per week with a 10% sibling discount. 

Information/registration: ahwatukeecommunitycenter.com or 480-893-3431.

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