Allentown School Dis­trict to open new plan­e­tar­ium

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Jac­que­line Palochko

As­tron­omy lovers can travel through space and check out the con­stel­la­tions at the Allentown School Dis­trict’s new plan­e­tar­ium, the Learn­ing Dome, dur­ing a week­end in Oc­to­ber.

On Oct. 5 and 6 the dis­trict will con­duct three show­ings each day at its re­vamped plan­e­tar­ium for the com­mu­nity, ac­cord­ing to the dis­trict’s web­site. The show­ings, at Dieruff High School, are free, but tick­ets are re­quired and can be re­served on­line.

Forty seats are avail­able for each show, which will last 45 min­utes. Tick­ets must be printed. The shows will start at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on both days. The as­tron­omy shows will be led by Allentown teach­ers who have re­ceived spe­cial train­ing to use the sys­tem.

This is the first time the Learn­ing Dome will be open to the gen­eral pub­lic. The Allentown School Dis­trict re­vealed the new plan­e­tar­ium at an Au­gust event for busi­ness lead­ers, com­mu­nity mem­bers and school board mem­bers. The dis­trict had been work­ing to re­open the plan­e­tar­ium since at least 2016, but strug­gled with the cost of new equip­ment. Dieruff’s plan­e­tar­ium opened in 1965, but closed in 2010 when teacher Gary Becker re­tired af­ter al­most 40 years in the po­si­tion.

With do­na­tions from lo­cal busi­nesses, led by Lee Butz, of Butz Con­struc­tion, and state fund­ing se­cured by Repub­li­can state Sen. Pat Browne, more than $400,000 was raised to pay for the equip­ment and ren­o­va­tions. The Learn­ing Dome will be used for not only as­tron­omy, but also for sub­jects such as ecol­ogy, en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence, ge­ol­ogy, bi­ol­ogy and anatomy.

The new fa­cil­ity in­cludes soft­ware show­ing stu­dents a three­d­i­men­sional uni­verse that al­lows them to ex­plore stars and gal­ax­ies. De­pend­ing on the class, teach­ers can use the soft­ware to travel through dif­fer­ent lay­ers of Earth, teach how hur­ri­canes and earth­quakes are formed, and ex­plore the hu­man body.

Morn­ing Call re­porter Jac­que­line Palochko can be reached at 610-820-6613 or at jpalochko


The view in­side Allentown School Dis­trict’s newly re­fur­bished plan­e­tar­ium, called the Learn­ing Dome, at Dieruff High School in Allentown.

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