Please allow me this opportunity to tell you about a hidden gem in the Brainerd Pulbic School system that is becoming less hidden each year. It is the Forestview Planetarium on the second floor of Forestview Middle School. The 2018-19 school year marks year two where I get the opportunity to share the amazing world of astronomy to thousands of people from preschoolers to adults. My name is Brian Wallace and I have been a teacher in the Brainerd Schools for 32 years. When Forestview Middle School was constructed 15 years ago a permanent planetarium dome was included in the design that myself and other colleagues had a hand in creating. After many years of limited use I now find myself as a full-time director of the planetarium that benefits all Brainerd students and reaches out to public schools in our five county region of central Minnesota so their students can attend. It is truly my dream job!
Two years ago a colleague and I applied for and received a generous amount of funding through a program called Innovation Funding; a program created and managed by Sourcewell of Staples, formally known as NJPA. This funding was approved for year two and an application for year three will be completed soon. The funding covers all cost for a full time person to staff the planetarium along with equipment changes and upgrades along the way. More importantly, the planetarium funding covers all transportation costs for kids from 22 school districts in Region 5 to experience the planetarium. Because of this funding, thousands of school age children have the opportunity to learn about astronomy in the immersive environment of a planetarium, many for the first time. Most schools have two to three grades attend. Students at Brainerd schools attend multiple times from kindergarten through eighth grade and all students receive lessons designed to cover our Minnesota science standards. The impact on student learning has been incredible!
Another important role of the planetarium is community outreach. I have presented shows during the fall, in December and currently I am preparing for "A Night Under the Stars" in late February. For information on shows and showtimes visit the planetarium website at fmsplanetairum.com and follow the planetarium on Facebook. The best thing of all is that when public shows are presented they are free to attend. All I ask is that you register for tickets using the planetarium website.
I hope you can soon check out this not so hidden gem in our schools! Thank you to all who have helped bring the planetarium to reality, from former superintendent Mr. Walseth for believing in this idea to our current superintendent Mrs. Larson for connecting me with Sourcewell two years ago. Thanks also to my colleague Tim Peabody for his help in the application process and all the employees of Sourcewell that continue to fund incredible programs throughout the five county region, including my favorite hidden gem, the Forestview Planetarium.