CHAUTAUQUA - The sky is the limit, but it's closer to home than one might think.
Chautauqua Institution is committed to expanding its already well-attended children's activities, and has scheduled several space-themed events intended for teenagers.
"When you look at youth programming at Chautauqua, we always have our traditional Boys and Girls Club, Group One and Children's School," said Vanessa Weinert, institution employee. "Those are very interactive and some of the oldest running daycamps in the United States. Those are available every year, but this year, during week one ... we decided to expand a little bit and put on some additional programs for teenagers."
Weinert said that traditionally, children's programs are weeklong events, and participating children must be registered for the whole week. However, children can register for the special programs scheduled to begin Sunday on a single-day basis.
"We want to reach out to local (children) who might be interested in an individual program," said Weinert.
The first event planned at the institution is named "Journey to Tomorrow," and is scheduled to run from Sunday through Thursday.
"Journey to Tomorrow is a traveling NASA space exhibit," said Weinert. "The exhibit is coming from Ohio, and is one of NASA's premier traveling exhibits. It will feature several interactive opportunities, such as dressing up like an astronaut, and a lunar landing simulator."
Additionally, the exhibit will feature eight interactive kiosks, which will offer visitors the chance to learn about NASA and NASA's research programs, science fiction versus science fact, brain bites that explain common questions many people have about air and space travel, and Dynamic Planet, a hands-on interactive that allows guests to explore the Earth, sun and solar system.
On Monday and Tuesday, the institution will hold two individual youth camps which will run from 4:30-6 p.m.
The Monday camp is titled "Magical Space Journey" and will offer children the opportunity to learn about size, distance and characteristics of the planets.
"It's all about interactive activities," said Weinert. "Guests can come learn about meteorites and how they cause craters on the moon and other planets, and there will be discussions about the possibilities of life on other planets.
"The June 25 camp is called Soaring With Rockets," continued Weinert. "That one is a little more self-explanatory: you get to make rockets. It's going to be a lot of fun, and guests will get to learn about the history of rocketry as well. It really plays well into the Chautauqua Institution's concept of lifelong learning. Guests will also learns about forms of propulsion by making several different types of rockets, including balloon rockets, liquid fuel rockets, high-powered air rockets, and pop and soda bottle rockets."
Weinert was also happy to say the only fee associated with each youth camp is the fee to come on the grounds. Moreover, Tuesday nights at the Chautauqua Institution are community appreciation night, and gate passes are half-off.
Weinert recommends that any families that might be interested in either youth camp call to reserve a spot, as registration is limited to the first 50 participants. Interested guests can call 357-6402 to register.
Later that night on Tuesday, affiliates with the Martz Observatory, based out of Frewsburg, will come to the institution to explore the night sky with guests.
"Guests can come in, go to some evening entertainment, then come explore the sky with telescopes brought from the Martz Observatory," said Weinert. "The telescopes they're bringing are extraordinarily sophisticated, and guests will likely see more than they would expect."
According to Weinert, the event will be held rain or shine.
Finally, as part of the institution's family entertainment series, a showing of "ET: The Extraterrestrial" will be aired in Bestor Plaza beginning at 9 p.m. Wednesday. The Brick Walk Cafe will provide snacks and refreshments, and guests are encouraged to bring a blanket to lie on or under. Should it rain, the location will be changed to the Hall of Christ.
Weinert said that the new programming for older children is part of an initiative to engage teenagers on the ground better.
"We're always looking for more programming for the teenagers," said Weinert. "There are still things for them to do, but they might not want to go to every single 10:45 lecture. Some of them might feel too old to go to Boys and Girls Club, so we want to give them things to do. We do have peer club, which is open until 1 a.m., but we wanted to take this model of lifelong learning and apply it to the teenagers here."