Tuesday, 05 February 2019 19:20

Richmond County students learn sky's not the limit with StarLab

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Credit: Shannon Hearne - Leath Memorial Library Credit: Shannon Hearne - Leath Memorial Library Students from Mount Olive Christian Childcare enjoy the sights and sounds of StarLab Tuesday inside Leath Memorial Library.

ROCKINGHAM — They say the sky's the limit, but that's not the case with StarLab — a portable, inflatable planetarium dome that was on display inside Leath Memorial Library Tuesday. It allows kids to tour outer space or visit a coral reef and anything in between.

Leath Library Supervisor Shannon Hearne, Outreach Coordinator Debbie Knight and Kemp Library Director Ashley Scott had some technical problems earlier in the day setting up StarLab — which is 11 feet high, 23 feet in circumference and weighs 65 pounds — but after some finagling, were able to treat the first group of 65 students from Mount Olive Christian Childcare with ease.

StarLab was inside the Calvin Little Room from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, but Knight said close to 75 kids had stopped by to check out the planetarium in the first hour.

"We had over 60 kids in there at one time, and when Shannon was doing the program and showing them the giraffe coming down (to eat), you could hear the pure sound of joy and excitement from the kids," said Knight. "It has been a daunting process, and it has tested our patience at times, but just hearing the kids laugh and have such a good time; when you hear that, it makes it well worth all the effort."

The portable dome was brought to Leath's staff's attention after Sandhills Regional Library System Regional Director Jesse Gibson recommended it to Hearne and the other libraries within the system. And with Hearne and Knight attempting to lets residents know that libraries are more than just books, StarLab presented the perfect opportunity to shrink down outer space, as well as make animals and nature larger than life.

"We care about the community, and we want to bring things to them they might not ordinarily see or be able to participate in," said Hearne. "The StarLab is a great program. It's brought to us by the state library. It's touring the state. We're hoping that we can reach as many kids with this as possible."

Anyone worried they've missed their shot at checking out StarLab need not worry as the portable planetarium will be heading to the Hamlet Public Library from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 14. For those unable to bring their kids during that day, the dome will be visiting schools throughout Richmond County next week to give students a chance to reach for the stars during school hours.

Beginning next Wednesday, StarLab will be making stops at Washington Street Elementary and Rockingham Middle before heading to LJ Bell, Hamlet Middle, Mineral Springs and Ellerbe Middle later in the week.