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Innovative Educator: Capital High planetarium director inspires his students to reach for the stars

Benjamin Satterwhite uses the Capital High planetarium to launch students' curiosity into the cosmos.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union

Since 1969, Capital High School in Boise has had a unique, innovative feature, a planetarium. Planetarium Director Benjamin Satterwhite uses it to inspire his students to reach for the stars. He kind of orbits the planetarium like a satellite full of energy and knowledge, taking his students on a journey from Earth into space.

On the day KTVB visited, he taught fifth graders from Whittier Elementary about the rotation and revolution of the planets, sun and stars.

"Teaching is very much a passionate subject," Satterwhite said. "I think you have to be interested in helping students explore the world."

And beyond. He says humans have been natural star gazers since we first waked the Earth.

"I would say astronomy is one of, if not the oldest science, and within that there is a connection to all ancient and thriving indigenous cultures as a whole," Satterwhite said. "All humans have looked at the stars and been curious about them, and all we're doing is providing an extra opportunity to be able to explore those kinds of curiosities."

Exploring those curiosities just got an upgrade. Capital High recently put in new tables, chairs, carpeting, and most importantly, a high-tech projector.

"What's really powerful about this particular machine is that it's all digital and it can be all automated," Satterwhite said. "Rather than turning dials to make everything move, searching for particular objects in the sky, all of that can be automated within the computer itself."

A powerful tool for a passionate teacher to launch kids' curiosity into the cosmos.

"That curiosity is the foundation of all great scientists, and I hope that students understand that and get an opportunity to kind of share that here."

Mr. Satterwhite puts on planetarium programs for 5th graders in the mornings, and teaches high school astronomy and AP physics in the afternoons. He says outside groups, such as home schoolers, churches and scouts, can rent the planetarium for a presentation.

If you would like to nominate an Innovative Educator, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.

Educators, for information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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