For many years, the HPISD Pierce Planetarium located at Highland Park High School has brought the wonders of the universe to its K-12 students' doorstep. The space, which was once solely dedicated to astronomy, has received its first update since 2010. The expansion, which is being called a digitarium, includes several technological advancements and now the space once used only as a planetarium can be used for a variety of different course lessons in core subject areas as well as electives.
The digitarium offers a diverse level of digitized and immersive educational offerings that allow students to delve deeper into astronomy, biology, foreign language, health and medicine, engineering, and more. Students can explore not only the outer reaches of space but also oceanic ecosystems, the inner workings of the brain and even cities around the world, thanks to the display of larger-than-life digital models
Ashley Jones, Elementary STEAM Instructional Coach and Digitarium Liaison, emphasized the digitarium's importance as an instructional resource for HPISD educators. "We want people to understand that this space is open to everyone. It is designed to serve every student, every teacher, and every campus," Jones stated. The digitarium can accommodate up to 63 students, making it large enough to house several campus classrooms. "One of our biggest goals is to partner with programs like MAPS and robotics, and to make this a STEAM destination for all elementary school students," said Jones.
The transition to digitarium was two years in the making. "Being able to reach as many students as possible with countless topics and more exciting content than ever before," said Executive Director of Moody Innovation Institute Geoffrey Orsak. "The system we acquired is used in the world's best digitariums."
The digitarium welcomed its first class of students Feb. 10 when Boone Elementary fourth-graders visited for a lesson on the moon. HPISD educators will explore digitarium offerings Monday, Feb. 20 as part of the district’s professional development day to understand the vast capabilities of the expanded digitarium at the Pierce Planetarium.