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Vanderbilt Museum previews classroom

Suffolk’s Vanderbilt Museum will reopen its planetarium March

Suffolk’s Vanderbilt Museum will reopen its planetarium March 15. The planetarium will feature new shows produced by planetariums as far away as Great Britain and China, as well as high-definition video from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and other satellites. Credit: Handout

The Vanderbilt Museum on Tuesday gave county lawmakers in Hauppauge a preview of its new $80,000 mobile classroom and planetarium, a brightly painted bus with murals of the galaxy and a satellite on the outside and interactive displays inside.

The Vanderbilt’s moving exhibit, dubbed “Discovering the Universe,” was obtained for free from the American Museum of Natural History. It will makes its first stop at Harborfields Public Library on Aug. 7; museum officials say public schools can arrange for a bus visit starting in the fall.

“This is not a toy but a hands-on learning experience,” said Lance Reinheimer, acting museum director.

The program, aimed at students in middle school and junior high, is run by two educators who will give a hands-on 40-minute classroom session that can accommodate about 30 schoolchildren, followed by a tour of the bus that includes interactive exhibits on light, gravity, astronomy, telescopes and digitized imaging of outer space. The museum is charging $7 per student for the program, but officials hope it will help schools that can no longer do field trips.

Reinheimer also said he hopes the new mobile exhibit will spur new interest in the Centerport planetarium, currently closed because of renovations. The work is scheduled to be completed in mid-October and the planetarium plans to reopen late this year.

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