'Zula Patrol' let's kids explore


New programs at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium at Santa Fe Community College appeal to children as well as adults.

BRANDON KRUSE/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 7:19 p.m.

There's no shortage of kid-friendly options at the Kika Silva Pla Planetarium, and with the addition of an animated children's matinee, now even the youngest stargazers have a show to call their own.

Perfect for preschoolers who might get fidgety during a longer, more adult-oriented show, the kids' matinee is not the standard stars-on-the-ceiling type show, but an eye-popping 3-D computer animation called "Zula Patrol" with singing aliens on a quest that spans the solar system. Based on the PBS show of the same name, the planetarium matinee runs at 3 p.m. on Saturdays. (The PBS show doesn't air on WUFT, our local PBS affiliate, but you can check it out at www.thezulapatrol.com.)

If you're not sure if your kids are the right age for "Zula Patrol," check out the trailer on the planetarium's Web site at www.sfcc.edu/planetarium. If your kids like the trailer, they'll love the fast-paced show, which has dazzling visual effects and a kid-friendly 25-minute running time.

Things to know before you go:

Seating for "Zula Patrol" is limited to 30 guests, so you'll want to arrive at 2:30 p.m. when the ticket counter opens to be sure you'll get a seat. Advance tickets are no longer available: You can only buy tickets the day of the show.

Tickets are $4 for adults and $3 for seniors and kids 4-12. (Kids 3 and under are free, as are guests with a SFCC ID card.) The ticket counter accepts cash only.

After you've bought tickets, while away the time before the show exploring the amazing Jean Klein Rock Cycle Garden just outside the planetarium. With 22 different rocks arranged around a circular path, the garden includes boulders from all over the country, from swirly migmatite to a hunk of gabbro weighing in at 11,000 pounds. There's even a piece of sandstone with a 200-million-year-old dinosaur footprint embedded in it. Read the plaques accompanying the rocks, and you'll learn about the rock cycle, in which different types of rock can change over millions of years from magma to sediment.

No re-entry is allowed during shows, so a like-it-or-not bathroom trip before the show starts is going to be in order for most kids.

Kids are welcome to attend the planetarium's evening shows, which include the hourlong "Southern Nights" on Fridays at 7 p.m., which teaches audiences to identify planets and constellations in our area; "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity" on Saturdays at 5 p.m., a 35-minute show narrated by Liam Neeson; and "Night Spirits: Native American Star Lore," an original SFCC production narrated live by planetarium director Laurent Pellerin, on Saturdays at 7 p.m. The only exception to the family-friendly policy is the 9 p.m. Cosmic Concerts, which, Pellerin says, is "loud, with a date-type crowd," best suited for adults and teens.

Here's some fun trivia for kids to ponder on the drive over to SFCC, courtesy of the planetarium staff:

The surface of the dome covers 1,816 square feet.

More than 19 million tiny perforations in the dome's surface help prevent sound from wrapping around the theater and getting distorted.

Turned upside down, the dome could hold 272,884,518 M&Ms.

The Kika Silva Pla planetarium also offers shows for birthday parties, school field trips and groups of 15 or more. For more information, call 395-5381.

E-mail Alisson Clark at kidfriendly@gvillesun.com.

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