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Woman standing on floor in front of mural painting.
Young person on ladder painting mural in the dark.

Last month, the Wood community gathered for a night of art and star gazing with the East Bay Astronomical Society. The event was a collaboration between the Wood Middle School PTA and Science Department.

"We were looking for a date to do an art-themed community event in the fall," says PTA President Jen Bullock. "When I learned that the science team was planning an astronomy night, I thought it would be great to partner. Since Wood is a STEAM school, combining art and science was a perfect fit."

Participants had the opportunity to participate in several art projects: painting a stained-glass-inspired mural, constructing paper lanterns, and doing sidewalk chalk drawings.

The PTA chose to paint a mural on a wall that previously had a mural, but was painted over last spring. Bullock says. "The parent planning committee consulted with Principal Dwyer and art teacher Lindsey Shepard. The idea was to do a mural that many people could contribute to and get a paintbrush on, with or without artistic skills. One of our parents had the idea of doing the tape, 'stained-glass' style of mural.

Bullock continued, "It really was a community project because all of the paint we used was left-over house paint people donated, we had volunteers prepare the wall prior to the event, and students and families painted the whole thing."

After sunset, students and families moved to the blacktop, where the East Bay Astronomical Society astronomers set up several telescopes for viewing. Attendees were excited to see breathtaking closeups of the face of the moon, Saturn's icy rings, Jupiter's moons, and a star cluster. The astronomers also shared information about each view and answered questions.

Marci Nettles, a 6th-grade science teacher at the school, first brought the stargazing event to Earhart Elementary when she worked there. "I began a relationship with the East Bay Astronomical Society back in 2012," she says. "I went to a stargazing event up at Chabot and met several of the society's outreach members there. We began hosting the astronomers at Earhart for fall and spring stargazing nights for the seven years I worked there. We now hope to continue these fabulous events at Wood every fall and spring."

Astronomy is not a part of the Next Generation Science Standards for 6th-grade, but Nettles' students shared their stargazing experience in class the following day. "Our 8th-grade students spend 12 weeks investigating Planetary Science as part of their curriculum," Nettles says. "The star gazing events directly enhance our 8th-graders' classroom investigations and help prepare our 6th and 7th-grade students for their 8th-grade experience."

Students and families painting WMS stained glass mural

The Science Department is already working on the details for the spring stargazing night. Nettles noted that they hope to plan the event close to a new moon and have music, hopefully by an AUSD high school band.  A string quartet from UC Berkeley was supposed to play at this fall's astronomy night but had to cancel due to some of its members contracting COVID.

The PTA also plans to partner with the science department for the spring astronomy night.  "The PTA partners with Wood in everything we do!" Bullock said.  


Stained glass mural that says WMS