NJAA Solar System Walk
On June 15, 2002 the ribbon was cut to our new solar system walk, presenting it to the public. It offers an exceptional learning experience for old and young. Below is the story of how it came to be…
The solar system walk both began and came to fruition at the NJAA. One of the most spectacular scale models in the country, it took the efforts of over 50 people and 3 years of work.
In the spring of 1999, when Wil van der Veen spoke about ASTRO NOVA – a program that teams an astronomer with a classroom teacher – Teri Bellows of Voorhees High School signed up to work with elementary classes. She was partnered with Alexa Manning and Diane Geitzenauer of Valley View School, and Deborah Szmaida of Woodglen School.
During the following summer orientation, this group studied the Astronomical Society of the Pacific activity book provided by the program, and selected the scale model as their favorite lesson. During their discussion, they agreed this would make a valuable permanent exhibit, and planned to obtain permission to place student-made signs in Voorhees State Park, a popular place of enjoyment in the community. Inga Gabliks, park superintendent, was very instrumental in getting the state’s cooperation. Teri contacted Wil and then Jerry Vinski for some funding ideas, and was put in touch with Debbie Katz at 3M. Debbie was very excited about the project, and asked Teri to put her ideas in writing.
The NJAA was to be the actual recipient of the grant, NJAA President Wayne Petko provided the financial information in record time. With the support of 3M Flemington Manager David Marston, complete funding was achieved through the 3M Foundation. General Graphics in MD used Teri’s basic format and narrative, and added color and style to the plaques and imagery was selected.
Members of Voorhees High School Astronomy Club carefully measured the distance along the path for the positioning of the plaques. The custodial staff at Voorhees HS, park staff and former NJAA President Kevin Kilkenny took the plaques from delivery to installation. Astronomy is amazing, beautiful and fun. When you study it, you are left in awe of the wonders beyond our sky.
The scale model is a tool to try and put some of this in perspective. There is so much out there, it’s easy to feel insignificant. But a group of people working together has captured our stellar neighborhood, helping human thoughts travel to the stars. Continue this journey and visit the NJAA Observatory, another example of what a group of dedicated people can accomplish when they reach for the stars. The NJAA Solar System Walk is available for public use, we encourage you to experience it for yourself.