Young astronomers put planets in perspective Heavens: Roland Park Country School students have set up a scale model of the solar system. The sun shines in the school cafeteria; the most distant planet is in nearby Eddie's Supermarket, over the bananas.

THE BALTIMORE SUN

At Eddie's Supermarket in Roland Park yesterday, customers and employees went about their chores, unaware that there had just been a major shift in the neighborhood cosmos.

Bobbing above the bananas and the Freeze 'n Dip chocolate-flavored coating kits in the produce section was a diminutive purple planet: Pluto. Tiny astronomers from neighboring Roland Park Country School had hung it there, suddenly altering Eddie's status from the center of the Roland Park universe to the fringe of the solar system.

Most paid little attention. Except for one elegant woman, who peered at Pluto and gasped, "I'm stunned!" What did she expect, the sun itself?

As it happens, the sun -- as portrayed by a great big yellow rubber ball -- is hanging inside the Roland Park Country School's cafeteria, the very heart of a new scale-model solar system created by the school's third grade.

It was all third-grader Hanly Heubeck's idea. At first she asked her mother if they could build a solar system inside their house. Mom said no, but why don't you ask your teacher, Miss Annen?

No problem, Miss Annen said. With her curly hair, globe brooch and flowing skirt, Melissa Annen could easily pass for Miss Frizzle of "Magic School Bus" fame. She and two third-grade classes created a solar system out of balloons, papier-mache, rubber balls and paint. An upper-school math teacher calculated the model's true scale.

That put the sun, kept company by its closest planets -- including Earth -- and a baby Hale Bopp comet, in the cafeteria. Jupiter floats aloofly in a nearby art room.

A sprinkling of stars glitter inside the school, while Saturn and Uranus orbit outside on the campus grounds. Two blocks southwest from the school cafeteria, Neptune ended up in a pear tree outside Eddie's, and Pluto, the smallest and farthest planet, took its place just inside Eddie's, over the bananas.

They said it's made of gas, said Hanly of Pluto. It's so small, it might be a comet, she said. And every so often, it switches places with Neptune as the last planet.

Yesterday's installation at Eddie's was performed with raucous ceremony. After 39 third-grade girls in blue jumpers and Hush Puppies with curly-fry laces entered the store, Hanly climbed a ladder and, with the assistance of store manager Richard Kleiderlein, attached Pluto to a hook. Her classmates applauded.

They then presented Nancy Cohen, Eddie's owner, with a cap featuring Pluto (the dog) from the Disney Store, before trooping out to hang Neptune in the tree.

"I'm missing a perfectly good recess to do this," one little girl said. The other junior astronomers seemed happy to be out in the 'hood.

Inside Eddie's, clerk Sonny Hamrick arranged more bananas, careful not to cover the new sign that announced: "The Outer Limits of the Solar System, brought to you by Roland Park Country School."

Pub Date: 5/17/97

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