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John C. Wells Planetarium

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Planetarium Service Award

The Planetarium Service Award is awarded annually by the Department of Physics & Astronomy to recognize the significant contributions of a JMU undergraduate student. The JMU Planetarium is a $2M state-of-the-art facility with free shows every Saturday afternoon presented by JMU undergraduates. These students have been trained to operate the equipment and provide an engaging, interactive, scientifically-informed narrative of the night sky. Each year, the award is given to one undergraduate student who has gone above and beyond expectations and made positive contributions fundamentally impacting our mission of science education and public outreach. The plaque listing the recipients of this award is mounted on the wall inside the planetarium for all visitors to see.

Katie Blackman

Our 2016-2017 Planetarium Service Award recipient is Katie Blackman! Katie began working at the John C. Wells Planetarium the fall of her first year at JMU. She graduates from JMU having left a profound imprint on the Planetarium by setting a high standard for conduct and responsibility of a planetarium educator that will not be matched in the near term. Recognizing that the experience that our K-12 visitors receive when they visit the Planetarium doesn't have to stop when they leave, Katie created an "SOL show matrix" that not only allows teachers to understand how our full dome videos connect with various grade-level SOLs, she also provided classroom activities that complements a field trip to the Planetarium that a teacher can use either pre- or post-visit. She also uniquely understands the role that "informal science education" serves in inspiring the next generation of scientists & engineers. When Katie wasn't at the Planetarium leading an engaging star talk presentation to a visiting group, she was at our public star parties giving a laser-guided tour of the night sky, was found working as a counsellor at our summer Space Explorers camps, or leading an Expanding Your Horizons workshop that encourages young girls to pursue careers in STEM fields. Katie personifies how our planetarium student educators are ideal role models for science engagement and the very best of ambassadors of the University.

Katie Blackman 2016-2017

2015-2016 Daniel Stein

Our 2015-2016 Planetarium Service Award recipient is Daniel Stein! Daniel's contributions to the Planetarium over his 4 years at James Madison University is unparalleled. He has documented light pollution on campus and within the Valley, his gorgeous astrophotography from Shenandoah National Park and George Washington National Forest has been on display outside the planetarium the past two years, he has been interviewed on WMRA Public Radio's The Spark about his passion for photography, he created a short full dome video about light pollution, narrated by JMU English professor and critically-acclaimed author Paul Bogard, and he tirelessly documented the learning that took place at last summer's Space Explorers camps. Daniel has been an incredible asset and will be irreplaceable as moves on. Wherever the future may take him, his incredible talent and vision as photographer mean that the best is yet to come.

Daniel Stein PSA 2016

2014-2015 Sara Clemmer

This year's recipient of our Planetarium Service Award is Sara Clemmer! Sara is an IDLS senior with a concentration in middle school science & mathematics. Sara has been working at the John C. Wells Planetarium for the past 2 years and has been a key part of our successful summer Space Explorers camps and our Saturday public shows. Sara was instrumental in creating and leading our Science Sunday for Girls monthly events! This is a new program designed only for girls to meet other like-minded indviduals and to participate in hands-on science and engineering activities! Sara now teaches math at the middle school level in Hampton, Virginia.

Sara Clemmer PSA 2015

2013-2014 Caitlin McDermott

Caitlin McDermott is the 2013 recipient of the Planetarium Service Award. She began working at the planetarium in 2010, her sophomore year at JMU. In that time, she has been an instrumental part of our enormous growth. She helped create teaching guides and lesson plans, worked numerous Saturday afternoons welcoming the public, provided fantastic star talks, set up solar telescopes for young children to look through, and provided excellent leadership by example to all the new JMU students we've welcomed on staff over the past three years! This past summer she was also a terrific camp counselor at our first space camp (Go Team Venus!). McDermott has done it all and always with a smile on her face. She will be sorely missed as she leaves JMU but she will be an incredible teacher at whatever school is lucky to have her. McDermott graduated this year with a Master's degree in education at JMU. She is currently teaching first grade in Northern Virginia.

Caitlin McDermott PSA 2014

2012-2013 Jami Dodenhoff

Jami L. Dodenhoff is the inaugural recipient of the Planetarium Service Award. Dodenhoff worked at the Planetarium for three years and is credited with contributing to the enormous success the JMU Planetarium has seen over last two years. She was recognized for her commitment to science education and teaching, and especially for providing fantastic star talks for the large audiences we've seen at the Planetarium for our Saturday shows. Classes rave about her personality and her passion for teaching. She also developed lesson guides and teaching plans when we have K-12 classes visiting. Dodenhoff graduated with her Bachelor's and Master's degree in Education and was enrolled in the IDLS program. Currently, she is a 2nd grade teacher in Northern Virginia.

Jami Dodenhoff PSA 2013