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WEST GOSHEN — It’s one thing to watch a show about space, but students at Fugett Middle School had some firsthand experience when The Franklin Institute’s “Life in Space” traveling science show stopped by Friday morning.
“We do 10 different shows on 10 different topics of science,” said Joe Talento, one of the Traveling Science Educators. “We do a lot of traveling science and outreach. They’re basically 45-minute shows on various subjects that we take to schools, libraries and corporate events.”
The traveling science show is run by a group of five people who travel anywhere from southern Connecticut to northern Virginia.
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For the last three years, they’ve even traveled to Beijing, China, to take part in the Beijing Science Festival.
“We have an astronomy show, a chemistry show, a motion and machine show, we have a show on flight, we have a show on hot and cold — which uses liquid nitrogen and states of matter — and we have a weather show and a couple of others,” Talento said.
The show is for anyone, from elementary to high school and even adults, though not too many high school shows happen too often anymore.
The middle schoolers, however, enjoyed every moment of the two-show performance, courtesy of the West Chester Area Education Foundation.
“When we found out they had this money available, we tried to think of a project that would really help our students this year with their curriculum,” said Kerry Montgomery, a teacher at Fugett. “When we looked around, we were so excited to find the Franklin Institute traveling science show. With astronomy, we knew they’d be able to bring so much more to the students that we couldn’t in the classroom.”
The students have been preparing for the show by learning about space in the classroom over the last couple weeks.
“We told them about it a few weeks ago,” Montgomery said. “We’ve done the introduction to astronomy, so they’ve learned all about the Earth, moon and sun relationship. This is a great introduction as in the next week or two, we start to talk about space travel.
“They’re really excited because space travel is such an unknown thing, so to see more about it is going to be really great for them.”
The show allows for student volunteers to come up and help Talento with some space experiments, including a bottle rocket and what would happen if a person were sucked into space without a proper suit.
“One of the best parts is toward the end of the show when I talk about space suits and I’ll bring up a kid and put them in the world’s cheapest space suit,” Talento said. “When I pressurize the space suit, they will be mortified. They basically look like the big marshmallow man at the end of “Ghostbusters.”
The lucky volunteer in the first show was 13-year-old Julianna Bell, who laughed as she was blown up to double — if not triple — her size.
But every student’s attention was captured in the audience with all the props and experiments, which all, amazingly, fits into just two bins.
“We have to design the shows knowing we have to travel with them, so we try to get as much bang for the buck as we can with the kids with all these props,” Talento said. “If you have crickets chirping in the audience and people on their cell phones, you’ve done something wrong or else the audience is just completely not interested. We try to do the shows as wow-factor shows.”
It was such a hit at Fugett that the teachers are already looking to not only make this an annual thing, but maybe even twice per year.
“We’re even interested in bringing in the chemistry show as well in the fall to supplement our chemistry curriculum,” Montgomery said.