Discovery Dome brings smiles in new learning environment

Jesse Hicks smiled as he stepped into his “new” classroom at the High Plains Cultural Center.


The “new” classroom was the Discover Dome, a portable full-dome theater that seats as many as 30 elementary school students and their teachers. It offers a state-of-the-art visual learning experience that can address many different fields of science for any grade level.

“It was really cool. It kind of made learning fun,” said Hicks.

There were two domes set up at the cultural center’s gymnasium. Hicks and the other elementary school students spent time in the domes. They watched videos that lasted up to 33 minutes on a variety of topics, including dinosaurs, moles, trees and the solar system.

The domes are owned by Dickinson State University and sponsored by a STEM grant and a Math-Science Partnership grant. They were developed by the Houston Museum of Natural Science and Rice University.

Officials from Sen. Heidi Heitcamp’s office provided information on the program, said Kim Roberts, the assistant director at the High Plains Cultural Center.

There were seven classes participating, said Roberts, with a total of about 100 students. All day, the students filed in and out of the domes.

Some were skeptical when they entered. But almost all were smiling when they stepped out roughly a half hour later.

“It’s like that all the time,” said Dickinson State sophomore Shekinah Obomighie, who set up the domes. “They’re scared at first, but then they don’t want to leave.”

The students weren’t the only ones smiling.

First-grade teacher Seylna Pringle had a grin from ear to ear as she watched her students file out of the dome, excitedly talking about the program where they learned about stars and constellations.

“They had music. They had animation. It made it more fun,” Pringle said. “They came out of the class room in a different setting. It’s a great way to learn different science concepts. The students were really engaged in watching what was going on.”

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