School Bulletin: Planetarium expands orbit to include Spanish programs

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- For the past 44 years, the Waukesha School District has been taking students through space and time at the Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium. Now the astronomy programs are expanding to include more Spanish presentations, and one former student is helping to break the language barrier.

"I like that feeling of teaching these kids these science topics in Spanish and in English," Carlos Arechiga, a Carroll University student, says.

Arechiga came to the Waukesha district when he was in sixth grade and remembers visiting the planetarium. He recalls his class was one of the first to have a dual language program, but notes the district has continued to improve.

"At the beginning, there was maybe one recording of a Spanish presentation, but [there was] not a presenter that could come along and interact with the class," Arechiga says.

The planetarium's director, Lisa Swaney, says they have used grants to invest in more Spanish-language shows. And with help from Arechiga, the program is getting stronger.

"Because science is now taught in the elementary schools in Spanish, it gives us the opportunity to extend that learning from the classroom," Swaney says.

Brian Cieslak has seen the planetarium evolve from small slide shows in the basement of the Lindholm Building, which now houses the district's headquarters, to getting modern projectors at its current location at the Retzer Nature Center.

"The universe is modeled inside of our computers," Cieslak, who leads star talks, says. "We can not only show you a star, but we can travel to that star and beyond. We can observe from Waukesha, the North Pole, the Equator, Africa -- wherever you want."

Waukesha students in first through eighth grade make annual trips to the planetarium. Swaney says her team works hard to find new presentations to match the current curriculum.

"We're trying to make sure that it's part of their school day rather than just a field trip," Swaney says. "It's a great extension [to lessons] to bring it all in."

This summer the Horwitz-DeRemer Planetarium is inviting the public to weekly shows, all with special themes about the universe. For more information on the upcoming programs, CLICK HERE.

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