Grant Sparks South Irvine Students' Interest in Science

A grant from the Eastern Kentucky University Center for Appalachian Regional Engagement and Stewardship (CARES) is sending kindergarten students from one Estill County school to outer space.

Well, not exactly, but the grant is helping to heighten the youngsters’ interest in the skies and science.

Approximately 200 students from South Irvine Elementary School visited EKU’s Hummel Planetarium on Thursday, March 20, to view “Big Bird’s Adventure: One World, One Sky.”

 The grant, which covered the purchase of the program and the cost of student admissions, stems from a response to a request for regional stewardship and community engagement proposals from EKU faculty and staff. James Hughes, interim manager at the planetarium, and South Irvine Principal Lisa Reece collaborated to plan the event. The $8,000 grant will cover more such trips in future years.

“The number of students who will see this show in the years to come … could reach into the thousands,” said Karrie Adkins, project director with CARES. “This project is a wonderful example of EKU’s regional stewardship and community engagement efforts as it combines university and community resources to meet the identified need for programming for younger students as expressed by elementary teachers in the region. The Planetarium provides teachers with materials related to the show that can be used in the classroom as an instructional tool that is aligned with state standards. The students can then come to the Planetarium to experience and connect to what they are learning at school. This engaging field trip also allows young students in our service region to be exposed to a university setting, often for the first time.          

“Our hope is that with the renovations at the Planetarium and the purchase of updated shows, that students and teachers from across the state will be able to experience similar engaging and educational field trips in the years to come,” Adkins said.

Viewers of the Sesame Street-themed program will follow along as Big Bird, Elmo and their Chinese friend, Hu Hu Zhu, take a journey of discovery to learn about the Big Dipper, the North Star, the Sun and Moon. The content is especially suitable for children through second grade.

Adkins anticipates that more such faculty- and staff-led programs and projects will be funded. In addition, EKU CARES is currently reviewing community grant proposals that will link community agencies with EKU partners.

The University established CARES to provide a unified, comprehensive approach to stewardship and engagement that focuses on the five areas identified by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education: economic and workforce development, education, environment, collaborative government, and health, wellness and safety.

EKU’s Hummel Planetarium offers a wide range of programs of interest to school groups and the public. For a full listing, visit

Published on March 20, 2014

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