Misunderstanding Scrubs
Space Mission To Coatesville

By Helen I. Hwang
For The Philadelphia Inquirer

This year, students at Coatesville's Gordon Elementary School won't get a chance to sit in a space simulator, but they may get an opportunity next year.

The Traveling Space Museum was all set to appear in Coatesville for the scheduled Space Day Monday, but three weeks ago the visit was canceled.

The privately owned museum is a mobile interactive science exhibit based in Los Angeles.

Chalk it all up to what everyone now says was a misunderstanding.

One of the nonprofit museum's donors, Ivan Sims, a Coatesville native who works in Beverly Hills, felt he needed to get permission from Coatesville's City Council president, Patsy Ray, to take the show to the school.

When Sims didn't hear from Ray, in spite of repeated phone calls and e-mails, he called off the visit.

Sims had planned to donate up to $15,000 of his own money to take the exhibit to the school. "I wanted to do something to inspire kids to different career paths," said Sims, 48, who graduated from Rainbow Elementary School in Coatesville.

The mobile museum is housed in two 16-foot trailers, which carry various displays, such as a full-scale space simulator, an experimental jet plane, and a space toilet.

"The space toilet system is a favorite with kids. All the kids want to know is how to go to the bathroom in space," said Ivor Dawson, president and founder of the 9-year-old museum.

"I've never had a show get canceled" for a reason other than money, Dawson said.

Marie Walker, principal of Gordon Elementary School, said, "We decided it was too late to coordinate" Space Day for this year because the schedule was already busy.

When asked about getting permission from City Council, she responded, "If it's on school property, it shouldn't be a problem." She said she hoped the Traveling Space Museum would come next year, and Sims agreed.

Ray said in an interview, "They don't have to get permission for something the school district is doing on school grounds."

Sims, however, said Walker was apprehensive about taking the exhibit to the school without City Council approval. Walker denied that.

After Sims finally spoke to Ray on May 18, he said it was a misunderstanding.

Sims said Ray had apologized, saying she didn't realize he thought he needed her permission to hold Space Day at Gordon Elementary.

Sims, who lives in Lakewood, Calif., heads the Ivan Sims Foundation. One of its activities is a youth-mentoring program in Los Angeles.

Sims owns A&S Diagnostics, which performs ultrasound tests at doctors' offices. He's also a boxing promoter and has an Internet show called The Ivan Sims Show based in Beverly Hills.

He's also a pilot and honorary member of the Tuskegee Airmen. In August, he sponsored the Ivan Sims Youth Mentoring Aviation Day at the Chester County Airport in Coatesville. He said about 400 people attended.

Sims wanted Space Day to expose local children to positive experiences.

"I'm very proud of Coatesville. It's really a beautiful place. It has inner-city problems. That really bothers me. I remember we never locked our doors back in the '60s and '70s. I just hate to see some of the problems going on with the kids," he said.

back to home page

Ivor Dawson, president and founder of the 9-year-old Traveling Space Museum, shows a youngster how to use a space simulator.