THIS IS THE FIRST in a series about CTC’s College for Kids program. For the full schedule of programs offered, go to and click on this article, or go to or call 254-526-1586.

Local children gathered to explore the solar system at Central Texas College’s Mayborn Planetarium & Space Theater on Monday morning.

It was first day of “GalaxyQuest,” a four-day summer camp-style program that combined learning about the planets and space exploration with entertaining activities.

“Children are always fascinated with space,” said Carroll Beckom, a planetarium employee who runs the class. “They are curious to learn more, and we try and

make that learning fun for them.”

The class will offer the students, who range in age from 5 to 12 years old, a variety of activities including crafts, games and even the chance to try out some of the freeze-dried food consumed by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

“We try to get as many hands-on activities as we can,” Beckom said. “It helps sometimes to learn by doing something actively.”

Monday’s activities including children making their own sundials, and testing them outside on the planetarium’s lawn. Later, the group used a special device to safely look at the sun, and trace it’s shape.

“It’s pretty neat to try everything out,” said Brennon Spears, 10, of Killeen. “I like doing the hands-on stuff, because it’s fun.”

Other activities will include making diagrams and mobiles of the planets, mapping the sun, stars and constellations, and learning more about the galaxy via shows in the planetarium’s dome.

“GalaxyQuest” isn’t the only summer class CTC is running for children this summer. It is part of College For Kids, a series of classes and campus organized by CTC’s Continuing Education Department.

Courses will run through the end of the summer and include themes such as weather phenomena, animal heroes and even a cookie baking class.

Beckom, who teaches many of the science-themed classes, said many children attended more than one College For Kids class during the summer.

“Many of the students are coming back from other classes or even returning from last year,” she said.

Those students included Spears, who attended a class on dinosaurs, and 9-year-old Nathan Kim. In addition to “GalaxyQuest,” Kim said he also participated in “Hocus Focu,” a class on optical illusions and chemistry. “There’s lots of fun things to do,” Kim said. “I like all of it.”

Contact Chris McGuinness at or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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