On the playground outside Cameron Elementary School in Moore County on a sweltering June day, kids played inside colorful inflatable playhouses. But in the gym, Laura Moore’s third-grade class entered another type of inflatable – one that brought them the stars.
“What do you think is keeping the planetarium up?” asked Elysa Corin, science educator with the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center.
“What would happen if I let all that air out?”
“It would go flat.”
“That’s right. And we don’t want that to happen.”
Corin is the caretaker of North Carolina’s first traveling portable fulldome digital planetarium, a star show in a tent. She has been a science fan since she was a child, when her mother took Corin and her brother to science museums weekly. Her first job was an unpaid internship with the planetarium when she was just 15. She worked as a paid student employee for the next two years – writing camp curriculum, leading presentations and teaching herself science along the way.
“The idea of working at a planetarium greatly appealed to me,” she said. “It seemed to be my dream job. It still is. I couldn’t have designed a better position for myself if I had tried.”
Each year, the planetarium hosts 85,000 schoolchildren who take field trips to see star shows like “Carolina Skies” and “Black Holes: Journey into the Unknown.”
But a trip to Chapel Hill is not always feasible, so in 2009, with support from the N.C. Space Grant and additional funding from the Chatham Foundation and the UNC provost’s office, PLANETS – Portable Learning for All North Carolina’s Elementary Teachers and Students, a program for K–12 students – hit the road.
These days, Corin travels in a state-owned Dodge Caravan, logging about 1,000 miles a month going to schools all over North Carolina.
Corin enjoys exploring the “nooks and crannies of our state” helping the dedicated teachers she meets to reinforce concepts they teach and to excite their students about learning.
“The children I spend most of my time with usually have spent some time looking up at the nighttime sky,” she said. “They just need a little guidance from me.”