Middle School Students ‘Discover the Universe’

Principal and Teachers Join Rocky Point Students in Unique Program

Students and teachers, and even the principal, at Rocky Point Middle School on Long Island recently added an intriguing chapter to their science education when they climbed inside the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Discovering the Universe: Mobile Classroom.

Vanderbilt science educator Liz Sperling and Rocky Point students work with a hands-on computer station in the Mobile Classroom
Vanderbilt science educator Liz Sperling and Rocky Point students work with a hands-on computer station in the Mobile Classroom

Eighth-grade science students and their teachers were welcomed into the theatrically-lighted, futuristic interior of the 37-foot vehicle. There, Vanderbilt science educators showed them how to explore astronomy using the Classroom’s five, hands-on, interactive stations.

Among the visiting adult students were Principal Scott O’Brien; Terry Renna, the district instructional coordinator for K-12 science and advanced placement; Bob Keller, president of the National Grid Foundation; and Jane Bonner of the Brookhaven Town Council.

The Mobile Classroom – which receives ongoing support from the National Grid Foundation – was a gift to the Vanderbilt from the American Museum of Natural History. The Classroom allows the Vanderbilt to enhance its longtime role as an adjunct to the science curricula of local schools.

“Our school strives to provide authentic learning opportunities for all students,” said the principal, Dr. Scott O’Brien, “and the Mobile Classroom offered a unique experience to extend and support classroom instruction. The students enjoyed interacting with the hands-on exhibits and this motivating program reinforced our curriculum.”

“The Mobile Classroom is the perfect way to help make astronomy cool and exciting to students,” said Bob Keller, president of the National Grid Foundation. “We are extremely pleased to be able to partner with the Vanderbilt and hope we were able to spark the curiosity of the Rocky Point Middle School students and children all over Long Island to explore the Universe and excel in science.

“Helping children to become excited about science is one of the most critical educational priorities we have as a nation, and this stunning, traveling window into the universe has become a major resource for encouraging Long Island students to pursue careers in science. After a highly successful pilot year, we are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Vanderbilt, one of Long Island’s premier museums.”

Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, more than 3,130 students have participated in the Mobile Classroom program. Districts served during the current school year were Central Islip, Westbury, Brentwood, William Floyd, Amityville, Freeport, Franklin Square, Sachem, South Country and Rocky Point.

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