A science night in Spanish at the planetarium

Last Friday, over 150 Spanish speakers came out for a science night in Spanish at the planetarium of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). The evening, hosted by the planetarium and WIPAC through the program “El Universo es Tuyo,” offered an appealing program: a planetarium show about the moon, activities with IceCube, science books in Spanish from the Madison Public Library, and several hands-on activities to learn about moon craters and eclipses run by UW Space Place and MEChA of UW–Madison. There were even some refreshments, through the generous support of Rocky Roccoco, Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, Woodman’s Markets, and Pick ’n Save.

Geoff Holt, director of the MMSD planetarium, worked with Juan Botella, a physics and astronomy teacher at Monona Grove High School, to prepare the show in Spanish. Holt’s publicly acclaimed programs in the planetarium joined the excellent teaching skills of Botella, who was born in Mexico and is a winner of a 2016 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. Together they adapted an existing planetarium program about the moon, introducing connections to the Nahuatl language and the Aztec, Maya, and Inca cultures.

The crowd was very representative of the growing community in Madison interested in science programming in Spanish.

  • A family from Midvale Elementary School, with English-only-speaking parents but kids who speak fairly fluent Spanish thanks to the school district’s dual learning program, explained how important these programs are for them. Their kids are learning Spanish quickly, but they are lacking opportunities to practice it in a meaningful way outside of school. 
  • A family of Mexican immigrants, including grandparents and small kids, joined the event, too. For them, Madison does not have enough events to learn and have fun as a family that go beyond cultural and traditional celebrations.
  • A Mexican-American family thought this was a great event, and they also learned and wanted to know more about the planetarium shows in English, which they also would love to attend. In fact, their kids are better English than Spanish speakers.

The organizers want to thank the contributions of all partners and sponsors as well as numerous schools, churches, stores, and community centers that helped spread the word. It’s only because of them that this night was made possible and was such a great success.

“El Universo es Tuyo,” launched in September 2016 to offer science activities in Spanish to kids and families, will also continue looking for opportunities to partner with institutions and communities in Madison and around Wisconsin.  Look for them very soon at universo.wisc.edu!

+ Event: Una Noche de Ciencia en el Planetario (link)