Roaming planetarium delights preschoolers

Brandi Shrock, a preschool teacher at Willard PK-8, reviews with her students after their planetarium experience.

WARREN — Ever wonder what would happen if you jumped on the moon?

While most adults and older kids have an idea  what low gravity does to movement, many preschool-aged children haven’t explored the intricacies of Newton’s laws.

But a roaming planetarium featuring “Sesame Street” characters is trying to change that by giving youngsters a glimpse — sometimes for the first time — into age-appropriate astronomy lessons.

“Discovering more about the universe helps your child build an appreciation for the one world and one sky that we all share,” the “Sesame Street” website states about the program.

Several classes of preschoolers on Friday filed into the Willard PK-8 School gymnasium to witness the Sesame Worskshop exhibit, “One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.” In addition to a virtual trip to the moon and a lesson on the Big Dipper inside a large inflatable dome, students also were exposed to a Sesame Street character seen by Chinese viewers of the show, Hu Hu Zhu. The multi-cultural connection can help students become more comfortable with people from far away lands, according to the exhibit’s creators.

The kids, 3 to 5, learned how to say “hello,” pronounced “ni hao,” and “goodbye,” pronounced “zai jian” in Chinese, and received a poster with information about night and day translated into Chinese and Spanish to familiarize children with the idea of different languages.

Willard preschool teacher Brandi Shrock said the 30-minute production wasn’t the only time her class spent on the subject of astronomy.

All week, the students read books featuring trips to space, information about stars and constellations and the difference between the sky at night and day.

A session of Cosmic Kids Yoga took the students on a “guided trip to the moon.” The children also learned to tell a planet from a star — stars twinkle, planets produce static light — and some were surprised to realize the sun is a star too.

“The kids are really grasping the concepts,” Shrock said.

“Shooting stars shoot fast across the sky and you can make a wish on them,” said Josh Morehouse.

“You can jump really high on the moon,” said Elizabeth Fox.

“You can’t fly a kite on the moon because there isn’t any wind,” said Morehouse.

The students are sent home with follow-up activities, glow in the dark stars, an astronomical planetary mobile and exercises that complement the in-school lessons.

The project is funded by the PNC Foundation and other partners.

In 2015, three exhibits toured early childhood education centers and other organizations in 16 states, sharing the experience with approximately 18,000 students, according to the PNC Foundation.