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Observatory Central > Planetarium Forum > Planetariums as a hobby > Planetarium Presentations ~ programs, education, music, and effects
Ray Worthy
It was Christmas in the planetarium...........

No it was not quite that. Actually, it was a couple of days before the
schools broke up for their Christmas holidays and I had been asked to do
my stuff in a special school somewhere on Tees Side in the north of
England. This was just about the last of my school visits with the
inflatable dome before I allowed the insurance to lapse and then devote
my time to the manufacture of the domes for use by others.

My programme was that I was engaged to do two shows in the
morning but only one in the afternoon. This would give me an hour and a
half to do the last show and I was surprised that the staff had allowed
that much time for one class, but when I queried this, they said that I
would understand when I saw the class.



Although the school was designated as " Special",
this did not mean necessarily that the children were not teachable. Many
of the pupils had some physical disability which prohibited them from
being in the education mainstream . The morning sessions went very well
indeed and the pupils appreciated the presentations and showed their
interest.

The morning's sessions inside the dome prevented me from seeing
round the school. I could not move around and see the general picture ,
but , at lunch time, I was taken on a tour of the establishment by a
friendly member of the staff.

The building was specially adapted to help the
movement of the handicapped around the school. There were no steps
anywhere and if the pupils had to negotiate going up or down to another
level, then there were shallow gradient slopes provided.

Even so, having seen all this background and obtained
some general appreciation of the place , when , at last, I was invited
to go into the classroom of the pupils for the last session of the day,
I was totally unprepared for the experience. In the "Special " school,
this class was a degree more "Special" than the others. Each of the
pupils was , in some way dependent upon some form of apparatus ranging
from wheelchairs to other specially designed constructions. I do not
wish to go into the details, which might be described as harrowing, but
I want to mention two boys. One boy, let's call him Simon , had a
deformity which prevented him from walking properly. His left leg was
bent around in a semi-circle and as he walked his torso had to move in
an orbit of it's own . Simon used a special walking stick as an aid. The
point I wish to make is that Simon busied himself in helping those other
pupils who were less mobile than he was. The star of the show was a thin
boy, let's call him Tommy. Tommy lived in a frame like a newly planted
tree . This frame was a metal cylinder which reached up to his hips. It
held him upright with his legs and hips well and truly clamped. This
frame was fixed upright on a wooden board and underneath this board
were attached four castors which allowed Tommy to be moved around. Above
this frame, Tommy bent his upper body and waved his arms , and laughed
and shouted with all the rest. When Tommy wanted to move from A to B ,
it was Simon who pulled the rope on Tommy's board. I now appreciated why
this class had been allocated extra time.
The problem was how to get them into the inflated
dome . The teacher, a young lady, ( I considered her to be some species
of saint ) was worried. She had never seen an inflatable dome before
that very morning and could anticipate all sorts of difficulties facing
her charges in this special situation. I told her that we would take it
slowly and gently and I would give it my best shot. The children were
excited as all young children are at the thought of going into the
planetarium and we made our way slowly along the corridors to the hall ,
each by his or her special means of perambulation and bringing up in the
rear were Tommy with Simon doing his self imposed duty.

When they finally reached the dome and appreciated exactly
what it was, I could see that , although they were all fascinated , each
child had a certain reservation based upon the particular disability
that he or she had. I had to tread very carefully to dispel any worries.
The children were shown how the fan worked and that the dome was like a
balloon, except that it was sitting on the floor, so that it was more
like a hovercraft. In case you do not already know, let me explain that
my domes do not have a tunnel and entrance is made through a zip door.
The fan pressure can be varied and the pressure is turned up high when
someone is entering or leaving by the door, but is turned low down when
the door is closed and the show is in progress. I mention this because,
I could see that only a few of this class would gain entrance through
the zip door.

First though, I would have to show the class that the
dome was not solid and that the walls were flexible. I selected one boy
called James who, although disabled , could roll on the floor. I opened
the door to show him that the inside was illuminated and that there was
a young lady helper already inside the dome. We could all hear that
there was music playing inside as well. Then I asked James to lie down
on the floor alongside the wall of the dome. I followed this up by
Asking him to imagine that he was lying on a bed and that he was going
to pull a blanket over himself. I said to him " Roll over and pull the
blanket over your body and you will find yourself inside the dome".
James did so and yelled with excitement when he found himself inside .
" Now roll back through ", I told him. When he reappeared, the
class cheered .

So far so good. Now to allay the fears of the wheelchair
users. I explained to the class what I was about to do. " I am going
inside and cross to the part opposite the door. Then, I am going to
reach underneath the fabric with one hand and pull it down. At the same
moment, with my other hand, I am going to push the fabric away from
me."

This , I did , and in two seconds the whole dome had shot
over in an arc over my head and landed on the floor in a crescent
shaped bundle. This is always spectacular when seen for the first time.
Once again they all cheered , but the point was made; they knew that
they need not be worried about being trapped inside.

When I first began using this design of dome, the
local fire brigade people were worried about the same problem of escape
in an emergency and I had to give them a demonstration, to substantiate
my claim. The top brass from the regional brigade were all assembled
and they had brought along three video recorders on tripods to record
the event. When I was prepared , I shouted from inside , " Are you
ready?". They shouted back " Yes."
I performed the trick which took exactly two seconds.
The fire people with all their gold braid, were astonished. The speed
was entirely unsuspected , so much so, that they had not even switched
on the recorders.

So, back to this special class. The dome took about
five minutes to inflate again and we were ready for the wheelchair
demonstration. I showed them the "No door" technique. I and the teacher
took a wheel each and had arranged for the assistant inside to be ready
to receive the chair as it came through. We moved the back of the chair
to the fabric wall and shouted " One Two Three!" And at the count of
"Three", we had lifted the fabric, pushed the chair in and replaced the
fabric on the floor, all in a couple of seconds. The air in the dome
seems slow to react, as though it does not realise it can escape and by
the time it has got it's act together, the fabric is back down on the
floor.

This was a great game and slowly but surely all of the
class was assembled inside talking to the young assistant.; all that was
except Tommy with his faithful friend Simon. I gave Tommy the option of
going in like a wheelchair, or being lifted out of his frame and rolling
in like James had done. He chose the wheelchair option, so after a "
One, two , three," Simon and I had worked the magic and Tommy was inside
the dome looking around with wonder in his eyes.

After all that, the actual programme might have been
described as an anti climax , but they were all so excited at overcoming
the obstacle that nothing could dampen their enthusiastic responses. It
was a marvellous show.

Getting out was a cinch, so easy with my two second
method. Of course this was an amazing experience especially when seen
from the inside. One second , you are inside the dome and the next
second you are in the school hall. They cheered so loudly, the Head came
running to see what the fuss was about .


The progress back to the classroom can only be
described as triumphant, with the kids shouting and singing . The
teacher's eyes were brimming over . She said that she had never seen the
class so excited and motivated. Just before they assembled for their
going home buses and taxies, I could see that the teacher had arranged a
vote of thanks. Tommy called over to me and beckoned me to come closer.
When I got there, he asked everyone to be quiet. Tommy became quite
formal as he delivered his prepared speech. When this was done and the
class had once again lifted the roof off with their noise ,Tommy leaned
over as close to my ear as he could and he grabbed my shirt to pull me
closer. He said in a confidential manner.

" This year, I am going to have a REALLY SMASHING
CHRISTMAS".
Nathan Volle
Thanks Ray! A wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it with all of us. Nathan
mrgare5050
QUOTE(Ray Worthy @ Dec 15 2008, 04:48 PM) *
It was Christmas in the planetarium...........

No it was not quite that. Actually, it was a couple of days before the
schools broke up for their Christmas holidays and I had been asked to do
my stuff in a special school somewhere on Tees Side in the north of
England. This was just about the last of my school visits with the
inflatable dome before I allowed the insurance to lapse and then devote
my time to the manufacture of the domes for use by others.

My programme was that I was engaged to do two shows in the
morning but only one in the afternoon. This would give me an hour and a
half to do the last show and I was surprised that the staff had allowed
that much time for one class, but when I queried this, they said that I
would understand when I saw the class.
Although the school was designated as " Special",
this did not mean necessarily that the children were not teachable. Many
of the pupils had some physical disability which prohibited them from
being in the education mainstream . The morning sessions went very well
indeed and the pupils appreciated the presentations and showed their
interest.

The morning's sessions inside the dome prevented me from seeing
round the school. I could not move around and see the general picture ,
but , at lunch time, I was taken on a tour of the establishment by a
friendly member of the staff.

The building was specially adapted to help the
movement of the handicapped around the school. There were no steps
anywhere and if the pupils had to negotiate going up or down to another
level, then there were shallow gradient slopes provided.

Even so, having seen all this background and obtained
some general appreciation of the place , when , at last, I was invited
to go into the classroom of the pupils for the last session of the day,
I was totally unprepared for the experience. In the "Special " school,
this class was a degree more "Special" than the others. Each of the
pupils was , in some way dependent upon some form of apparatus ranging
from wheelchairs to other specially designed constructions. I do not
wish to go into the details, which might be described as harrowing, but
I want to mention two boys. One boy, let's call him Simon , had a
deformity which prevented him from walking properly. His left leg was
bent around in a semi-circle and as he walked his torso had to move in
an orbit of it's own . Simon used a special walking stick as an aid. The
point I wish to make is that Simon busied himself in helping those other
pupils who were less mobile than he was. The star of the show was a thin
boy, let's call him Tommy. Tommy lived in a frame like a newly planted
tree . This frame was a metal cylinder which reached up to his hips. It
held him upright with his legs and hips well and truly clamped. This
frame was fixed upright on a wooden board and underneath this board
were attached four castors which allowed Tommy to be moved around. Above
this frame, Tommy bent his upper body and waved his arms , and laughed
and shouted with all the rest. When Tommy wanted to move from A to B ,
it was Simon who pulled the rope on Tommy's board. I now appreciated why
this class had been allocated extra time.
The problem was how to get them into the inflated
dome . The teacher, a young lady, ( I considered her to be some species
of saint ) was worried. She had never seen an inflatable dome before
that very morning and could anticipate all sorts of difficulties facing
her charges in this special situation. I told her that we would take it
slowly and gently and I would give it my best shot. The children were
excited as all young children are at the thought of going into the
planetarium and we made our way slowly along the corridors to the hall ,
each by his or her special means of perambulation and bringing up in the
rear were Tommy with Simon doing his self imposed duty.

When they finally reached the dome and appreciated exactly
what it was, I could see that , although they were all fascinated , each
child had a certain reservation based upon the particular disability
that he or she had. I had to tread very carefully to dispel any worries.
The children were shown how the fan worked and that the dome was like a
balloon, except that it was sitting on the floor, so that it was more
like a hovercraft. In case you do not already know, let me explain that
my domes do not have a tunnel and entrance is made through a zip door.
The fan pressure can be varied and the pressure is turned up high when
someone is entering or leaving by the door, but is turned low down when
the door is closed and the show is in progress. I mention this because,
I could see that only a few of this class would gain entrance through
the zip door.

First though, I would have to show the class that the
dome was not solid and that the walls were flexible. I selected one boy
called James who, although disabled , could roll on the floor. I opened
the door to show him that the inside was illuminated and that there was
a young lady helper already inside the dome. We could all hear that
there was music playing inside as well. Then I asked James to lie down
on the floor alongside the wall of the dome. I followed this up by
Asking him to imagine that he was lying on a bed and that he was going
to pull a blanket over himself. I said to him " Roll over and pull the
blanket over your body and you will find yourself inside the dome".
James did so and yelled with excitement when he found himself inside .
" Now roll back through ", I told him. When he reappeared, the
class cheered .

So far so good. Now to allay the fears of the wheelchair
users. I explained to the class what I was about to do. " I am going
inside and cross to the part opposite the door. Then, I am going to
reach underneath the fabric with one hand and pull it down. At the same
moment, with my other hand, I am going to push the fabric away from
me."

This , I did , and in two seconds the whole dome had shot
over in an arc over my head and landed on the floor in a crescent
shaped bundle. This is always spectacular when seen for the first time.
Once again they all cheered , but the point was made; they knew that
they need not be worried about being trapped inside.

When I first began using this design of dome, the
local fire brigade people were worried about the same problem of escape
in an emergency and I had to give them a demonstration, to substantiate
my claim. The top brass from the regional brigade were all assembled
and they had brought along three video recorders on tripods to record
the event. When I was prepared , I shouted from inside , " Are you
ready?". They shouted back " Yes."
I performed the trick which took exactly two seconds.
The fire people with all their gold braid, were astonished. The speed
was entirely unsuspected , so much so, that they had not even switched
on the recorders.

So, back to this special class. The dome took about
five minutes to inflate again and we were ready for the wheelchair
demonstration. I showed them the "No door" technique. I and the teacher
took a wheel each and had arranged for the assistant inside to be ready
to receive the chair as it came through. We moved the back of the chair
to the fabric wall and shouted " One Two Three!" And at the count of
"Three", we had lifted the fabric, pushed the chair in and replaced the
fabric on the floor, all in a couple of seconds. The air in the dome
seems slow to react, as though it does not realise it can escape and by
the time it has got it's act together, the fabric is back down on the
floor.

This was a great game and slowly but surely all of the
class was assembled inside talking to the young assistant.; all that was
except Tommy with his faithful friend Simon. I gave Tommy the option of
going in like a wheelchair, or being lifted out of his frame and rolling
in like James had done. He chose the wheelchair option, so after a "
One, two , three," Simon and I had worked the magic and Tommy was inside
the dome looking around with wonder in his eyes.

After all that, the actual programme might have been
described as an anti climax , but they were all so excited at overcoming
the obstacle that nothing could dampen their enthusiastic responses. It
was a marvellous show.

Getting out was a cinch, so easy with my two second
method. Of course this was an amazing experience especially when seen
from the inside. One second , you are inside the dome and the next
second you are in the school hall. They cheered so loudly, the Head came
running to see what the fuss was about .
The progress back to the classroom can only be
described as triumphant, with the kids shouting and singing . The
teacher's eyes were brimming over . She said that she had never seen the
class so excited and motivated. Just before they assembled for their
going home buses and taxies, I could see that the teacher had arranged a
vote of thanks. Tommy called over to me and beckoned me to come closer.
When I got there, he asked everyone to be quiet. Tommy became quite
formal as he delivered his prepared speech. When this was done and the
class had once again lifted the roof off with their noise ,Tommy leaned
over as close to my ear as he could and he grabbed my shirt to pull me
closer. He said in a confidential manner.

" This year, I am going to have a REALLY SMASHING
CHRISTMAS".

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Has anyone saved this fantastic Ray Worthy essay? If not I'll put it on the HPA Blog This is the kind of hidden gem on OC that shouldnt be lost!
Ron Walker
One of the true giants in the planetarium field!
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