Nadine McHenry, Ed.D. is the Director, Science Teaching Center Coordinator, of the Community Engaged Teacher Education (CETE) Program at Widener University’s College of Health and Human Services. (That probably doesn’t all fit on the front of a business card).

Dr. Nadine McHenry

She prepares students in their senior year who are studying to become teachers to get acquainted to what it’s like to teach Chester students by having them spend time in the classrooms of Stetser Elementary School and Widener Partnership Charter School to get their first experience in real classrooms with real students. Dr. McHenry is constantly on the lookout to identify  local organizations in need of service or support that can use her teacher candidates so that they can add to their service learning projects.

I’m a new Community Mentor with CETE and joined the students last night for Stargazing and S’mores. I’ve never done S’mores so I had to watch the students to learn what it was all about. I must admit, for a first timer, my S’more was delicious. 

S’More-ing Widener style

After S’mores-ing, we went inside Kirkbride Hall and walked the 5-flights to the top floor where half of us entered the observatory and the other half to a classroom. I was so pooped from the climb, the classroom served as a welcome respite for my old bones. A charming retired astronomy professor stepped us through a slide show of stars, planets, comets, craters, and other details of the galaxies that was out of this world. After about a half hour the groups switched places which landed me in the observatory to actually see some of the things learned in the classroom through the slit in the dome and the super-duper telescope.

I must admit that seeing little dots inside the view finder of a telescope isn’t that most exciting activity until you consider that you’re looking at something that’s hundreds of light years away. But, when you see Saturn and its ring pattern in the scope, all you can do is say WOW! 

To put a light-year into perspective, consider the sun is 92-million miles from earth and the light from the sun takes 8-minutes to get to us. That means the sun is 8-light minutes away from us.

We saw stars that are at least 4-light years away from earth and many are over 100-light years away. That means that the star we see in the scope may not look like that now because we are seeing what it looked like 100 years ago. The star is so far from earth it would take thousands of years to get there in a rocket ship. 

The Widener University observatory is a 4-ticket ride you don’t want to miss

Last night was a perfectly clear night to see the stars and munch on my first S’more. I was joined by A. Jean Arnold, retired Stetser Elementary Principal Janet Baldwin, Widener alumna Rev. Hilda Campbell, and Mrs. Marcy Roots. I couldn’t have asked for a better Thursday evening. 

The Widener University observatory is open to the public on an almost weekly basic. Check their website for dates and times.