Elementary School Students Explore the Big and the Small at the Ho

Veronica Hanus & David Terrazas

“Did we have that during the last ice age?” The question came from one of the elementary school students visiting Colgate’s new Ho Science Center on Wednesday, October 8, after hearing that much of modern day landscape study is done with the help of satellite imagery. The student was pointing at a satellite image of an ice flow covering 100 km2 in Antarctica.

There were approximately 40 students visiting that afternoon from the Sherburne-Earlville Elementary School, ranging from the 3rd to 5th grade. These young minds were full of questions during their tour of the Ho Science Center, which included a 45 minute Night Sky Tour and Full Dome show in the new Visualization Lab and also a guided tour of the “Powers of Ten” display.

The display is etched into glass panels and can be viewed as you ascend the four floor staircase in the Ho Sciences Center. The display consists of 25 glass etchings that depict the relative scale of the Universe in factors of ten meters.

It starts out with an image, of what scientists call a bubble chamber, which is at the scale of 10-15m. Then as you move up the staircase you can view other etchings depicting different objects on an increasing scale. There are biological, geological and finally astronomical objects, the last representing 1021m. Yes, that is a 1 with 21 zeros following after it! Three Colgate student volunteers assisted with the event: Christian Rathkopf, Veronica Hanus and Margaret Swaney. Christian and Veronica are both officers of the Colgate Geological Society and Margaret is an Astronomy major who is active in creating presentations for the Ho Visualization Lab. The volunteers used their respective areas of expertise to explain each image and how it fits into the world, both in scale (this is after all, the “Powers of Ten” exhibit!) and into their own discipline.

“The goal is to expose the children to the science that surrounds them and gets them excited about it…to have them say things like…, ‘I want to be an Astronomer/Geologist when I grow up,” says David Terrazas, who is Colgate’s Web Designer/Developer for the Information Technology department and also the President of the Central New York Astronomy Club (CNYAC).

David has done many student outreach events for the community, and has now organized this tour in conjunction with Sherburne-Earlville Art/Newspaper Advisor and CNYAC Member Storm Hammond, Colgate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Thomas Balonek and Senior Visualization Designer and Technician Joe Eakin.

The “take home message,” the magnitude and variety in the Universe as displayed in each image, came across well for the students. An image showing smoke rising from an erupting volcano promoted a conversation about the formation of rain around tiny dust and ash particles, one student piped up: “So, everything here is connected?” You got it, from the very big to the very small.