Earth and space science expert discusses ‘Voyage’ solar system exhibit for Baltimore

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As a potential learning tool, the Maryland Science Center in collaboration with Jeff Goldstein, director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, proposes the permanent installation of a replica of the Washington, D.C. Voyage scale model solar system exhibition in Baltimore Inner Harbor.

Science and technology education at the elementary level is of national importance and one aspect of a ‘community learning approach’ is exhibitions, Goldstein told the GBC Planning and Project Development Committee.

The Inner Harbor Task Force has approved the exhibit installation pending identification of funding, said Goldstein. If funding is secured by this month, the exhibition could be installed by the end of summer 2009, and proposed community-wide programming could commence upon installation.

The estimated cost of the exhibit’s installation and the development of new content for a broad array of existing Maryland Science Center programs is $350,000, said Goldstein. The cost of programming in perpetuity would be supported through attendees and Baltimore City would provide, at no cost, the ongoing maintenance.

“The exhibition was designed to be replicated and permanently installed in communities world-wide, and in each community serve as a centerpiece for a diverse array of sustainable programming for grade K-12 students, teachers, families, and the public,” said Goldstein. The motivation for these programs is to get practitioners to inspire the next generation.

This one-to-10 billion scale model, combining sculpture and science, carries a story of the nature of human existence on a planet orbiting a star in a city of stars, he said. There are enough galaxies to give one to every human being on earth and we as a human race need a sense of humility. The exhibit shows the sun as the size of a large grapefruit and the earth the size of a pin about 50-feet away, representing 93 million miles. Students learn that if they could fly as fast as a commercial jet, it would take 17 years to reach the sun from earth.

The exhibit is made up of 13 to 15 aluminum stanchions with model worlds laser-sculpted in 3-D inside crystal and full-color, high resolution storyboards in porcelain enamel. The proposed space around the Baltimore Inner Harbor (Rash Field or Light Street) is less than 2,000 feet. The Voyage exhibit has already been installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.; Kansas City, Mo.; Houston, Texas; and will be installed this year in Corpus Christi, Texas and Des Moines, Iowa.

General programming can include school group and public tours, professional development for grade K-12 pre- and in-service science teachers, and interactions between scientists and students, said Goldstein. Since the Voyage exhibition includes tactile representations of the Sun and planets, there would also be opportunities to partner with the National Federation of the Blind.

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