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Planetarium laser show to raise program funds

If you’re seeing lasers, no need to panic. It’s likely just the upcoming laser show at the Forestview Middle School planetarium.

Hosting the laser show is an effort to raise about $2,500 for a new program for the planetarium’s community Christmas show.

There are six different themes for the laser shows, each playing to theme-specific music.

The fundraising effort is headed by Brian Wallace, a sixth-grade science teacher at the school and lead operator of the planetarium. He started it because the current Christmas show that the school puts on for the community doesn’t show the planetarium’s full potential. It’s outdated, he said.

The new show will cost about $5,000, half of which will come from money saved up from the laser show the school did seven years ago.

It will be part live lesson, part ready-made show.

Eventually, Wallace wants to put on three shows a year for the community, adding in a fall and spring show.

The planetarium at the school received a $95,000 face-lift last summer.

The 28-foot diameter dome was placed in the building nearly a decade ago when the school was built. Since then the computer system and projector became outdated.

With the new technology, though, Forestview has the most advanced digital planetarium in the state — and probably even the Midwest, Wallace said.

The new projector offers a higher level resolution and brightness. The new computer system is more compact. It allows the instructor to customize and narrate his own show for the students. Instead of being restricted to the monitor in back of the room, the instructor will be able to walk around, operating the system through an iPad.

The new system is “fabulous when you can customize lessons for what we’re targeting,” Wallace said.

That’s something teachers couldn’t do before.

“It’s a more intense experience,” Wallace said.

Teachers are already reporting a better understanding of astronomy among students.

“When we asked them questions before, it was hit and miss,” he said. “Now there’s such a broad base of knowledge.”

But the real impact of the new system will be shown in the upcoming Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments for eighth-graders, Wallace said.

Usage of the planetarium is increasing among classes, though Wallace wants it to balloon even more. Eventually, he hopes it will pull in classes from other schools and will be a revenue source for the district.

JESSICA LARSEN, staff writer, may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at