Introduce Your Kids to Science and Toddlers to Planets, for ToddlerPlanet

Today my dear friend Susan Niebur of Toddler Planet will be undergoing surgery to remove a local regional recurrence of the breast cancer she has been fighting since June 2007.  The surgeons will remove the cancer from the lymph nodes under her armpit today, and then she will begin radiation.  Again.

She has already endured a litany of treatments and procedures.  And now she is going forth into battle again.

Susan is one tough mama.

She is also an astrophysicist – a planetary scientist, specifically.  She has worked for NASA and now conducts independent research on space science missions.  She also works to build communities at the websites Women in Planetary Science and Mothers With Cancer.

In honor of Susan’s fight and to express our love, today writers across the blogosphere are posting about ways that they will be educating their children about science.  It’s a TeamWhyMommy Virtual Science Fair.  Because Susan’s love for her family and her passion for science are what define this incredible woman.

Would you like to join Team WhyMommy?   Then head to one of these Washington, DC area activities that will educate your kids about the the universe.  Your field trip will be a living prayer for the health of the best mother on the planet.

Visit the NASA Goddard Center – a great play and learning space for families in Greenbelt, MD that is totally FREE

A visit to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Visitor Center is a a fabulous family outing.  Enter the center and walk through the archway of photographs of the universe from the Hubble Space Telescope, play with the vast interactive displays and models, climb into a real Apollo pod,  and even play with space-travel-themed toys and the dress-up chest.  Watch the “Science on a Sphere” exhibit, a movie of animated data viewed on a six-foot-diameter rotating suspended globe. Both kids sit quietly in awe for the entire duration of the film, which is a testament to the splendor of the production. Even though the show’s subject matter is a bit over Eve’s head, she adores watching the light display. Open Tuesday – Friday 10am-3pm, Saturday and Sunday 12pm – 4pm, here are directions to the NASA Goddard Center in Greenbelt, parking is free and abundant.

Montgomery County College Planetarium – free weekend shows and programs

The next shows are Saturday April 17 at 7pm (appropriate for adults and teens) and Saturday May 1 at 7pm (great for kids of all ages). Mark your calendars!

University of Maryland Planetarium Open Houses – twice a month, totally free

The Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park hosts Open Houses at the Campus Observatory on the 5th and the 20th of every month. On Open House evenings a guest speaker will give approximately a half hour talk about a topic in astronomy. The talk is followed by viewing of celestial objects through the observatory’s telescopes, weather permitting. If weather does not permit viewing, the talk will still go on as scheduled.  Here’s a link with the upcoming speakers and topics.

Skywatching at Sky Meadows State Park – free outdoor labs with expert astronomers & their telescopes

On Saturday nights in 2010 (April 17, May 8, June 5, July 10, August 14, September 11, October 9 and November 6), Sean O’Brien,  the staff astronomer of the National Air and Space Museum’s Albert Einstein Planetarium leads a monthly star-watching at Fauquier County’s Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, VA.  The evening begins with a short night sky orientation at dusk, followed by telescopic observing of various astronomical objects.  Join the stargazers (and their telescopes that will be zeroed in right on the most brilliant items in the sky) for a Saturday your kids will never forget. Sky Meadows State Park is west of Washington, D.C. on US Route 17 North, 1 mile south of US Route 50, or 7 miles north of Interstate 66, Exit 23. The park contact phone number is (540) 592-3556. There is a $4 parking fee per car.

Rock Creek Park’s Planetarium – free planetarium shows for families, with a new projector!

Rangers present curriculum-based planetarium shows for a variety of ages and attention spans several times each week. The addition of the new projector’s power, software and computer-generated and satellite images has opened a new world of opportunities for the domed classroom.  In regularly scheduled planetarium shows, children and their parents can view the celestial bodies visible in the Washington sky without star-obscuring light pollution. The rangers engage the kids with stories of the constellations, and tips on how to identify stars and planets.  “Young Planetarium” shows every Wednesday 4:00PM, “The Night Sky” shows on Saturday and Sunday 1:00 PM, Advanced Planetarium Shows Saturday and Sunday 4:00 PM.  Check the  online schedule for any changes and updates. 5200 Glover Park Rd. NW. 202-895-6070.

Rockville Science Day 2010 – April 25, Noon-5pm, free
The 21st annual Rockville Science Day will have hands-on exhibits in science and engineering fun for all ages. From reptiles to rockets, from chemistry to robotics, from genetics to astronomy, come see what makes science a life-long passion.  At the Montgomery College, Rockville Campus, 51 Mannakee Street, Rockville, MD 20850.

Please forward this list of activities to your friends to encourage them to introduce planetary science to their children, as well as to pray for Susan’s successful surgery and victory in the fight against cancer.  Thank you.

A special thank you to Jean of Stimeyland for organizing this show of support.


  1. LeticiaTechSavvyMama says

    What a great tribute to Susan in your roundup of local space related activities and thanks for the reminder of all the wonderful things that the area has to offer in addition to the Air & Space Museums!  

  2. Sunday Stilwell says

    Wow!  This is a great list!  I will definitely be checking some of these out wtih my boys!

  3. ohhh, thanks for this list…Michael would love Rockville Science day!

  4. DiPaola Momma says

    I’ve been meaning to take the kids to Goddard. No better reason to do that, then to support our strong and super smart friend Susan. Thanks for the 411 Jessica!

  5. amy @teachmama says

    Love this idea, Jessica. What a great round-up of space-related activities. I had NO idea MoCo had this many planetary resouces!

    Thanks once again for your super-awesome ideas, this time in the name of our pal, Susan.

  6. Janine @twincident says

    Digging your list! I guess I should consider actually moving beyond my backyard to show them the stars, eh?

  7. We plan to get to Goddard with the entire preschoo class this month!!!  Can’t wait to show off all the cool stuff!!  We must check out the other cool activities as well.  Thanks Jessica.

  8. Lisa R. Betts says

    What a great list of ideas (I had no idea we had this many local space related resources for our kids) and not to mention a great tribute.  We don’t know Susan personally, but having had both parents go through cancer, we are sending good healthy thoughts her way!

  9. Thank you for sharing this list of activities. I have forwarded it in hopes of helping more mommies and mommy-support teams help the little people learn about science. My prayers are with Susan and her family.

  10. BananaBlueberry says

    Again, you amaze me with ALL YOUR KNOWLEDGE !
    Yey Science!
    Yey Susan!
    Yey Moms!

  11. Manic Mommy says

    I am a total (amatur) space geek.  I only wish I could take advantage of all that the DC area has to offer.  I’ll have to look beyond Boston’s Museum of Science to see what else we have.  Given MIT is around the corner, we should have something.

  12. Thrift Store Mama says

    Lovely post Jessica – reminds me that we’re only 20-25 minutes from Goddard and have never been there !

  13. Great idea and thanks for the information. 

  14. I just love this — stellar job from you as usual, totally worth the drive for us!  And this post touches my heart.

  15. I am saying a prayer for Susan

  16. Great suggestions of places to go! Just today Quinn asked for a telescope, like out of the blue. I think that means we’re going to have to make use of this list you posted and head out to the planetarium!

    Thanks so much for taking part in the science fair!

  17. We’ll pray for Susan’s health.  I took my 2-year-old son to the Goddard Space Center last year and it was very fun.  He enjoyed the dress up area and the part that teaches how electricity is made.  It’s a great place for visit in a hot summer day.  It’s a fairly small place – we spent only about 45min-1hr there.  I imagine that an older child will be more engaged and can read more about each theme there.

  18. Susan has been on my mind today – she is such an insiration (and a great gal to boot).  She is lucky to have you and Stimey for bloggy pals.  Lots of prayers out to her today….

  19. Thanks for all of the great science links and best wishes to your friend. 

  20. says

    Keep – fighting – Susan!! 
    Thanks for the info.

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