As part of its Family Series, Kutztown University’s KU Presents! will host “A Tour Through the Solar System,” a multi-media performance for elementary and middle-school students and their parents, 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, Schaeffer Auditorium.
The show is a live performance by Janet Ivey-Duensing, creator of “Janet’s Planet,” the award-winning PBS children’s series that introduces the wonders of the galaxy to engage viewers and spur their interest in STEM subjects as well as the arts. It involves humor, theatrical techniques, visual illusions and music to help kids understand complex scientific concepts. They also have an opportunity to come onstage for a closeup experience.
Ivey-Duensing, a native of Covington, Tenn., north of Memphis, developed an interest in space early in her childhood, inspired by watching “Star Trek.” Her fifth-grade teacher, Ernestine Yarborough, encouraged this interest by giving her an opportunity to look through a telescope for the first time. She was forever hooked.
But she was also an artist at heart and made the decision to earn her bachelor’s degree in music, theater and commercial music at Belmont University in Nashville. She has combined these credentials with her deep and abiding interest in science to spend her career helping educators combine art and science to enrich children’s lives and to create live performances, television and online programming to entertain and educate kids for more than 25 years.
“Janet’s Planet” has won 12 regional Emmys and five Gracie Awards and airs on more than 140 public television stations throughout the country. It is also available in short form on KTV (Kids and Teen Television), YouTube, BatteryPop, Club Jelly Telly, AmebaTV, and HighBrow in the UK and the Children’s Television Network.
In 2015, Ivey-Duensing was elected to the Board of Governors of the National Space Society and named the spokesperson for Enterprise in Space, in recognition of her work in encouraging planetary studies, especially among girls.
That same year, chief principal investigator Alan Stern, of NASA’s New Horizons Mission, asked Ivey-Duensing to do educational outreach for this mission. She created the #DearPluto project through “Janet’s Planet,” garnering international attention and countless letters in response. She has since authored a book, “#DearPluto,” featuring some of those letters from children, with commentary by New Horizon scientists.
She has won a STEM-FLORIDA Award for the “Exploring Microgravity,” an educational video about gravity and microgravity that she wrote and produced for Space Florida. She won the American Astronautical Society’s Sally K. Ride Excellence in Education Award in 2022.
All tickets for Janet’s Planet are $15 and can be purchased at KutztownPresents.org or by calling the KU Presents! Box Office 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, at 610-683-4092. Established to be the center of cultural life at Kutztown University, KU Presents! serves the campus and community by bringing world-class live arts that entertain, educate and enrich.