Meteor Show--and Tell : Geological display will feature fragments from space. Rocketry camps are planned.


For local kids, space and rocketry season begins this weekend--a few weeks ahead of the hoopla that will surround the July 4th landing on Mars of a NASA probe.

From Friday through Sunday, families can head to the Ventura County Fairgrounds to check out an unusual display of meteorite fragments, including some that NASA scientists think came from Mars. Then, beginning Monday and running through June 27, there will be a “Space and Rocketry Camp” in session at Sumac Park in Agoura Hills and Triunfo Park in Thousand Oaks. (During July and August, several additional weeklong sessions will be held at parks in Oak Park, Moorpark, Simi Valley and Ventura.)

The meteorite fragments will be part of a large exhibit put on at the fairgrounds by the California Federation of Minerologists. Gems and fossils will also be on display.


Kathryn Davis, chairwoman of the show, says meteorites are “fragments of natural material from outer space that descend into the atmosphere and impact the Earth.” Some of the fragments on display have exotic names, such as “Sikhote-Alin”, “Odessa”, “Moldavite” and “Zagami”--because, Davis explains, meteorite material “is named after the nearest city, geological feature or post office where it [was] found.”

Most of these fragments are from meteorites that landed in Europe--from Bohemia to Siberia. But it’s the Zagami material, which fell to Earth in Nigeria, that kids will probably find especially interesting.

Davis says it was “most likely blasted into space when a large asteroid slammed into Mars’ surface.” This was determined when NASA compared the Zagami material with the Mars matter gathered and tested by the U.S. Viking space probe, which landed on Mars in 1976.

Further, she says, NASA revealed in August 1996 that the Zagami matter “may contain fossil evidence of primitive life on Mars.” A glass vial of “dust” from this meteorite will be part of the geological exhibit beginning Friday.

For youngsters--kindergarten age to 6th grade--who are impatient to begin their own in-depth study of space, two Science Adventure Summer Day Camps begin in Ventura County on Monday.

Places are still available, says Sondra Sanders, Ventura County program representative for the private contractor that runs the camps, but she urges parents to pre-enroll kids and not wait until the first day of the camp sessions. The science programs are not inexpensive: $110 for five half-day sessions or $195 for five full-day sessions.


“Space and Rocketry Camp” involves a hands-on series of laboratory projects--involving astronomy, navigation, telescopes, gliders, parachutes and astronaut procedures, culminating with the participants’ launching of a rocket they have built in the course of a week. Along the way, Sanders, points out, “We follow the California state science curriculum, using credentialed teachers or science graduates.” And, she added, there is a 10-1 camper-to-teacher ratio at the camps.

Sean Slattery, 11, a Justin Elementary School fifth-grader from Simi Valley, enrolled in this camp program twice--last year and the prior year.

“Mainly I liked the building of the rocket--every day,” he said of his adventure. “Basically we started with a tube and added fins and painted it and put in the propulsion [device].”

On the last day of the camp, participants travel by bus to the campus of Cal State Northridge to launch their rockets under the supervision of camp staff and engineers. Of the whole procedure, Sanders said, “We are very safety conscious. They’re handling glue and things. My own daughter was enrolled, so I know.”

Sean’s recollections are more poetic. Asked how high his group’s rocket went, he said, “Clear out of my sight. It became pretty small. The wind carried it somewhere.” Mars, maybe?


Exhibit--California Federation of Mineralogical Societies Show and Convention with meteorites, gems and fossils, at Seaside Park, Ventura County Fairgrounds, Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; adults $4.50, seniors and youth $3.50, children under 12 free.


Space and Rocketry Camp at Sumac Park in Agoura Hills and Triunfo Park in Thousand Oaks; Mon. through June 27, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. $195 for full week program. (800) 213-9796.