Donation lets kids reach for stars

Donation lets kids reach for stars

Elementary school children can visit Rowan University's planetarium for free next year, thanks to a $54,000 donation by a pair of alumni whose names are already on the facility.

Fredric and Jean McMenamin Edelman, of Great Falls, Va., who donated $1 million toward the purchase of equipment in the planetarium in 2002, made their most recent contribution to cover the $3-per-student admission for elementary school astronomy programs.

"I think the Edelmans were concerned that some schools would not be able to afford to make the trip," said Keith Johnson, the planetarium's director. "We welcome their generosity."

Johnson said the admission fee charged for school programs covers the cost of purchasing program materials and upgrading equipment. Programs for elementary school children include multi-media presentations in the 104-seat planetarium auditorium, which is located in Science Hall.

One program features a sun and stars that talk about the complexity of the night sky. Another features two children exploring the universe in a cardboard rocket.

Since the planetarium opened in spring 2004, approximately 23,000 people have visited. The audience has included school groups, Rowan students, the general public and special groups from senior citizens to Brownies and from a NASA Explorers Club to a professional planetarium association.

The planetarium closed for a second time in December 2005 due to water damage and has not reopened to the public since. As of December 2006, $173,000 in repairs had been put into the facility, according to previous reports.

Johnson said he anticipates the facility's reopening next month.

Schools will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis while the funds are available.

For more information on the planetarium or to arrange a visit, contact Keith Johnson, planetarium director, at (865) 256-4389 or visit

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Date Published: Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - 11:02