Education Stories of Impact

Working Together to Help Kids Learn About the Universe


Staerkel Planetarium director David Leake describes what it has been like to introduce 500 book mentor children and their families to space with the "One World, One Sky: Big Bird's Adventure" show.

When PNC Foundation approached Leake about partnering on an early learning project in central Illinois, he turned to Illinois Public Media for help. As director of the William M. Staerkel Planetarium at Parkland College, Leake had collaborated with the station on a number of successful family events, and he knew they could provide valuable resources and input.

Working with Illinois Public Media and Champaign County Head Start, Leake secured a $90,000 grant to expand and strengthen Illinois Public Media’s Book Mentor Project.. With funding from PNC Foundation, Parkland was able to purchase the rights to the planetarium show, and Illinois Public Media was able to offer field trips and family nights as part of their Book Mentor Project activities. So far, more than 700 Head Start families have taken advantage of Book Mentor family nights which include dinner, hands-on math and science activities, and a planetarium show.  Leake says, “The Head Start kids got a wonderful experience at the planetarium, and also, we benefitted greatly by it too.”