Westerville News & Public Opinion

'Starry Night' to open horizons for boosters group

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Arts and science will collide from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at Westerville South High School as the newly formed Westerville Elementary Boosters host its inaugural "Starry Night" astronomy festival.

The free event is meant to provide hands-on learning for families while showing how the arts and humanities and science play off one another, said Amy Raubenolt, one of the event's organizers.

"A lot of artists and musicians and poets and people like that have looked to the stars for inspiration," Raubenolt said. "We tend to think of them as separate disciplines, but they're really not."

Starry Night will include science activities such as a the inflatable SkyDome planetarium, demonstration and talk on rocketry from 4 to 5 p.m. by Tom Burns of the Perkins Observatory, demonstrations by Westerville robotics team the Warbots and displays by the Westerville Electric Division.

On the arts side, children will be able to help paint a community mural from 2 to 6 p.m., and there will be story times and drama presentations related to constellations and astronomy.

The event will end with a dance party from 6 to 8 p.m., during which Westerville Central High School students will help children make costumes and headbands to fit with the space theme.

While the event is free to the public, it hopefully will serve, through community sponsors, as the first fundraiser for the Westerville Elementary Boosters.

The group formed last year after the district's large-scale budget cuts.

The goal for the group is to find ways to support all of the district's elementary schools and to provide educational activities for elementary students and their parents, said Westerville Elementary Boosters President Jennifer Aultman.

"That's by supporting what happens during the school day and also providing some after school activities for families," Aultman said. "It's about bringing the parents along while the kids are learning because that makes it so much richer for the children."

The booster group is not trying to replicate the work of existing elementary PTAs, but rather provide support across the district in different ways, Aultman said.

Some examples include creating evening workshops for families during the next school year and creating a corps of community volunteers that could work in the elementary schools, as well as Starry Night, which organizers said they hope to make an annual event.

Starry Night already is off to a great start, Raubenolt said, as enthusiasm for the event exploded as soon as she proposed it.

"It ran away really quickly. When I first pitched it to the boosters, at that meeting, there was a pause, and then everyone started throwing out ideas," Raubenolt said. "It didn't take long for it really to balloon into a full-scale event."

A kick-off event held last weekend, during which the Columbus Astronomical Society set up telescopes for evening stargazing at the Westerville Sports Complex, attracted about 200 people, Raubenolt said.

That kickoff, as well as Starry Night, has been made possible because of all the community groups that have offered their support for the event, Raubenolt said.

"We've been really fortunate that all of our community businesses have been enthusiastic about supporting this event," Raubenolt said. "I really hope that it gets people excited about science and space and the arts. I hope that they go home and sit around their tables and their yards and talk about it. It's not just something that you go to a museum and look at it. It really is part of our daily lives."

More information about Starry Night and the Westerville Elementary Boosters can be found on the group's Facebook page.

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