Mobile science center visits Jacobs Fork

Few things compare to the state’s “GeoDome” theater.  

Floating at about 20-feet tall and 50 feet in circumference, the mobile and inflatable dome is a theater inside a pod.

However, this theater doesn’t showcase the newest hit comedy or major motion picture. It surrounds viewers with a scientific topic far more imperative — marine life and climate change.   

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Education and operated through multiple state agencies, the “GeoDome” and its supplementary activities provide educational tools to teach young people about the connection of humans and the environment.

On Thursday, students at Jacobs Fork Middle School got a rare look inside the dome that uses nearly-360-degree movie screens to transport viewers to the arctic and other areas being affected by climate change.

In addition to teaching students about how climate change is affecting animals like whales, polar bears and seals, a 17-minute film also gives students tips on how they can make a difference.

“I thought it was awesome,” said Benjamin Stewart, an eighth-grade student at Jacobs Fork. “It teaches that there are a lot of unique animals out there, and they might be dying because of our interference.”      
Stewart was one of about 270 Jacobs Fork students to enter the “GeoDome” on Thursday. Jacobs Fork is one of about three schools who will get to experience the dome.

In addition to the “GeoDome” film presentation, students also interacted with four different exhibits outside the dome that gave further information on marine life. The exhibits were led by Jacobs Fork students, including Stewart.  

Through funding from NOAA, the entire program is operated by staff from the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences trained science center and museums from across the state.

Melinda Wallrichs, the schools program coordinator at the Catawba Science Center, was one of 16 educators statewide who recently received training on the “GeoDome” program. She helped take the program to Jacobs Fork.

“They love it because it’s unique and it’s something different than what they do on a daily basis,” Wallrichs said. “They are taking what they’re learning and teaching it to their peers.”

The “GeoDome” was on display for two days at the science center before moving to Jacobs Fork.

Liz Baird, the director of school programs at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, led the Jacobs Fork students through the “GeoDome” video experience. After screening the film, she quizzed and informed students on how they can help the environment.

“If you have a chance to take a bicycle rather than taking a car, take a bike,” Baird told the students.

Many students, like Stewart, got the message.

“I learned about the connection of plastic bottles and oil. It’s bad,” Stewart said. “Using a reusable water bottle will help cut down on it a lot.”