Lenape facility and teacher expand students' frontiers

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:47

    STANHOPE-"Space, the Final Frontier" n Remember hearing those words? Forty-two first graders from Byram probably have not, but still they were searching and reaching for the stars during a planetarium presentation at Lenape Valley Regional High School last week. There, the students, who were accompanied by their teachers Dina Michaud and Maria Joiner, were led by teacher John Scala in a voyage through time and space to explore stars and beyond. After 18 years at the head of the department, John Scala and Lenpae Valley's planetarium have become synonymous. Scala has made presentations to more than 43,000 students from first graders to high school seniors, adapting the program to each age group. Scala, who earned a bachelors degree in astronomy from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Penn., is a star in his own right. He has received many recognitions including selection as Lenape Valley's Teacher of the Year in 1994, New Jersey Governors Teacher Recognition; the Air Force Association's NJ State Teacher of the year in 1999; certified astronomy teacher through American Astronomical Society; and the Geraldine Dodge grant which allowed him to attend space camp in Alabama. However, he's proudest of his inclusion in "Who's Who Among America's Teachers" because the selection to that honor was made by the students. The Lenape Valley planetarium is the only high school facility of its kind in the Sussex, Morris, and Warren County area. Since the program has expanded to include schools outside the sending districts, Scala has received inquiries from as far away as Pennsylvania. Last week's program was an introduction to the solar system. Because each program is designed to meet the capabilities of the students, the presentation for the first-graders consisted of two constellations, Orion the Hunter and the Big Bear. The students easily grasped the concept of gravity and were able to identify most of the planets. For information regarding a visit from your school, call Lenape Valley Regional High School at 973-347-7600 Ext. 165. Girl scout and boy scout groups are also invited to attend programs after school hours.