Night Under the Stars
By Amber Jones
The wide variety of shows and exhibits draws students and the community together to learn new things at Tyler Junior College’s Center for Earth & Space Science Education Center.
The center has many events and shows open to the public, and it hosts field trips for grade schools from across the area as well.
The center was added to Hudnall Hall in 2010 and opened in September 2011 as an upgrade. The old Hudnall planetarium has been a part of TJC since 1963 and is now the center’s exhibit hall.
“The shows are just like a movie. You sit down, and you watch it,” Said Robert Parish coordinator for the CCESSE.
The center uses full dome visualization, meaning when a person looks up, their entire vision is the screen. The showing is available to public. One of the most popular show tends to be “Mystery of the Christmas Star” during the holidays, which talks about the star that the Sheppard’s saw in the story of Jesus birth. But the event that gets sold out the most is “Love Under the Stars,” actually only allowing 70 occupants or 35 couples.
“There is a $75 admission for ‘Love under the Stars.’ Reason for that is we do serve alcohol, h’orderves, and have light music that kind of thing. The planetarium show for ‘Love Under the Stars’ is, of course, unique. You won’t see it anywhere else. It’s completely made in-house,” said Parish.
The show discusses romance, constellations and images set to a classical music score and this is presented in the center’s dome theatre.
The planetarium has a large selection of categories for shows and exhibits from the cultural sciences to hard sciences, such as biology or physics, and everything in between.
“As for the topics of each show, it varies for the science center,” Parish said. “We take a very broad approach to the content of our shows. This coming May, we will have dinosaurs.”
The events take quite a bit of effort in the planning process. Planning for shows and exhibits premiering in 2014 are already under way.
“Ninety nine percent of the people who visit leave happy, and we get a lot of repeat customers specifically on the weekend,” Parish said. “A lot of our members come on the weekends, because with a membership you get free admission.”
Many school groups visit, but the size of the groups varies. The center can handle up to 160 students and tries to make the exhibits as interactive as possible for students. At least 50 schools a semester from areas in or surrounding Tyler take field trips to the center.
“Every student had their own candy moon pop to use while the instructor was teaching us about the phases. The exhibits were really neat,” said Kristi Adams, second grade teacher at Troup Independent School District. “The students loved building their own pyramid with the blocks. The show in the dome was an experience that the majority of our students have not experienced.”
“I like working with kids, so field trips are really fun.” said Candace Black, employee at the science center.
The center hires part-time staff, and employees are not required to have a specific major. There will be positions open for students during who are looking for a summer job, starting in April, and the application process is through TJC. The employees are trained to present shows, sell tickets and gift items, and host field trips.
The center has a Facebook page with a “like” link, allowing everyone to view upcoming events. The page is listed under Center for Earth and Space Science Education at TJC. The facility is open to the public to see the many shows and exhibits available Thursday through Sunday.
Admission is $4 for students attending TJC and UT Tyler, and seniors in high school and regular adult admission is $6.