Classes and Scavenger Hunts
Our educators are trained naturalists with a passion for inquiry-based learning. In the Lyman Spitzer Jr. Planetarium, we inspire students to look past their back yards to the night skies and beyond.
We offer short 30-minute versions of all of our K-2 classes that include hands-on activities for preKindergarten, Kindergarten, and First Grade. Please inquire with Drew Bush.
Fish Anatomy: Grades K-2
Looking at live fish, we will learn about their adaptations to an underwater habitat. Why do fish look the way that they do? Does shape and size matter in a watery environment? By comparing fish anatomy to our own, will learn a little more about our bodies and what is needed to adapt to water versus land. Using props we will build our own fish and think about what adaptations are most important.
Are you an Insect?: Grades K-2
Students will learn the basics about and the roles played by the largest phylum of living organisms on earth: insects. There are more insect species than all plant and animal species combined. We’ll examine this successful life form from life cycles to how they survive and diversify. We’ll look at the major differences between ourselves and various insects through hands-on activities.
Animal Defenses: K-2
Students can experience firsthand the potent defenses employed by Vermont creatures and exotic organisms from across the world. This class focuses on hands-on investigation of animal bodies and adaptations, exciting students with genuine museum specimens.
Fuzzy Fliers: The Incredible Lives of Bats: Grades K-4
Many people are frightened of bats, even though their harmless presence is a great benefit to humans! Usually, on a warm summer night, Vermont’s bats alone suck up two billion insects out of the sky! Many of their prey are pest insects that harm our crops and us! Vermont is home to nine bat species, many of which have been terribly affected by the mysterious “white-nose syndrome.” Will their normal populations ever recover? Is there anything people can do to help? This class will explore bats with a particular focus on local species and efforts to repair the losses caused by their enigmatic affliction.
Nature's Pollinators: Bees at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium's Bee Hive: Grades K-4
Students will learn the basics about and the roles played by the largest phylum of livkng organisms on Earth: Insects. We rely on the pollinating abilities of insects such as bees for a majority of the food we eat, even indirectly most meats! Three out of four bits of food can be attributed to the work of bees! Discover native bee names and variations in colors, sizes, and ways they build their nests. Most importantly learn how effecient native bees are over the more commonly recognized European honey bees in providing the vital services of pollination.
Animal Homes: Grades K-6
Do all animals make their own homes, or do they find homes already constructed? Students will begin this exploration in the gallery looking for different types of animal homes and then progress to hands-on activities.
Vermont Mammals in Winter: Grades K-6
Are there different adaptations animals need to survive in winter? Do they migrate, hibernate or gather food? This class focuses on those that hibernate or gather and store food. Students begin with an examination of animal pelts and then move into the gallery to look at lodges, shelters and physical adaptations such as feet, fur, and diet.
Flowers: Grades K-6
Using games, story telling and movement, students are introduced to flowers and their cycle of growth, pollination and seed production.
Geometry in Nature: Grades K-8
We'll explore the shapes of things found in nature, from non-living crystals, to the variety of forms observed in planets and animals. Students will work on identifying shapes from "discovery boxes," and discussions will include some of the basic math and functions of these shapes.
Dar they Blow!: The Whales of the World: Grades K-8
Did you know that whales once swam in Vermont? This lesson will introduce students to the giant mammals that returned to the sea in order to introduce and demonstrate the concepts of adaptation and evolution. In addition, we will focus on the attributes that they share with all mammals to build on students’ knowledge of animal life. The rich and complex history of the whaling industry will also be featured, particularly for students in the higher grades. From the ancient, weasel-like ancestors to the largest creature to ever have lived, this oceanic exploration of earth’s most fascinating behemoths will be enlightening for learners of all ages.
What are Genes, Mutants, and GMOs? Grades K-8
What does it mean if your corn chips are non-GMO? In today’s world, even the youngest children have heard about DNA, Gene Editing, GMO’s, Genetic Engineering, and even advanced techniques like CRISPR. Humanity has already been changing the DNA of several living organisms for centuries, sometimes carefully, sometimes dangerously. Today’s students need to understand how genes and DNA work just to understand what choices they have at the grocery store! In this lesson, we will explore heredity including natural selection, artificial selection (breeding), and genetic engineering. We will also cover how DNA works in reproduction, how humans modify it, and the ethics of this fascinating and frightening form of human creativity.
Coral Communities: Grades 2-5
What is coral? Is it animal, plant or both? How does coral support our oceans and why is so important to our well-being? Learn about these magnificent tiny creatures and what challenges face them as their environment changes often due to human activities.
Water Filtration: Grades 2-5
There are many ways to clean water, but why does water need to be cleaned? Students will learn the importance and rarity of clean water. After being introduced to different kinds of filters, teams will try their hand at cleaning dirty water using different materials. Which team can clean water the best?
Werewolves, Vampires and Zombies: Grades 2-8
Using illustrations from culture and the natural world, students explore real diseases and parasites that have inspired myths and images from literature, film, and television.
The Need for Species: What is Biodiversity and Why Is It So Important: Grades 2-8
Extinction has always been a normal part of life on Earth and there are many natural causes for the disappearance of a species. Mass Extinctions, like the end of the Dinosaurs’ Reign, have happened at least five times in Earth’s history. Some scientists say that humans are responsible for an ongoing sixth Mass Extinction. A recent United Nations report has found that up to one million species might go extinct in the next century because of human activity! In this lesson, we will explore the biodiversity of the Earth’s ecosystems and find out about some of the most unusual and precious life-forms on our planet. Why does Earth have so many species? How do new species come into existence? Why is it important to preserve and protect these diverse species? What can we do, at home and globally, to help ensure the survival of these species?
"And the Mountains Should Crumble to the Sea": Grades 2-8
Have you ever wondered what our Vermont mountains looked like when they were new? Why do our driveways and back roads seem to "disappear" every spring? How do canyons form, and why is there so much sand on the coasts and the bottom of the ocean? In this class, we will explore all of the glacially slow or catastrophically fast ways in which water and erosion shape our world.
Water, Water Everywhere: Grades 2-8
The water cycle is the phenomenon that makes life on earth possible. Younger students will act out the water cycle and observe a demonstration of the properties of water, while older students will bring their knowledge of water in all its different forms to a series of demonstrations and experiments.
You Are What You Eat: Grades 3-8
What does your food, the human body and the periodic table have in common? This class explores what we eat and why we need certain kinds of food. Students view pictures of what happens to humans when we don't get the nutrients we need.
The Human Habitat: Grades 3-8
Students are introduced to the human microbiome and the cells that make up our bodies. Using a skit with Legos as characters, a metaphorical pirate ship and its crew members are attacked by different pathogens, illustrating the processes of disease and health. After the skit, the class will view photos of actual cells in the human body.
The Real Vampires: Parasites!: Grades 3-8
Parasites are among the most dangerous creatures on earth, even though many of them are microscopic. Being Mother Nature’s burglars, parasites survive by sucking the life out of other creatures! The most famous example is the mosquito, which not only sucks our blood but also spreads dangerous diseases like Malaria and the newly studied Zika virus. This class is an introduction to parasitism in the natural world, with some focus on parasites that can afflict humans. From fleas, ticks, and tapeworms to strangler figs and vampire bats, no one is safe!
Among the Honorable Orders of the Insects: Grades 3-8
There are over one million species of insects on Earth, and thousands are newly discovered every year! It would be impossible to describe every species in one lesson, but there are only 30 or so taxonomic orders- an easier number to tackle. This lesson will explore the diversity and complexity of the world of insects through the taxonomic system of classification. We may not cover every kind of insect, but at least students will begin to understand the larger groupings: the Order of Diptera contains all of the flies and mosquitos, the order Mantodea (meaning Sooth-Sayer!) includes all of the praying mantises. Perhaps fascination will conquer fear as students realize that the “creepy-crawlies” of this world are some its most amazing denizens.
Photosynthesis and Food Webs: Grades 4-8
Students will explore Vermont ecology by investigating food webs, demonstrating photosynthesis, and tracing the flow of energy through ecosystems. This class is split evenly between hands-on activity and classroom discussion.
Entomophagous: Grades 4-8
How do our food choices impact Earth’s resources? How do we feed a growing -human population with these same limited resources? Even though western countries find insects “icky”, many cultures frequently supplement their diet with a variety of arthropods. We will learn about a few of the 1900 edible insects out there do a little problem solving looking at current diets and environmental issues associated with our food preferences. Class ends with a chance to try an insect.
Basic Earth Processes: Classifying Rocks: Grades 4-8
Your students start with a discussion of the major processes which have shaped the landscape of our region. Then we discuss the three types of rock: Igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Next students take turns rotating through stations in groups of 2-3 to examine rocks from each type and their characteristics.
The World's Biomes and Biodiversity: Grades 5-12
Starting in Vermont, we’ll embark on a worldwide tour of all the biomes on the planet from Tropical Rainforests and Mediterranean Woodlands/Scrubland to Temperate Grasslands and the Tundra. Students will work hands-on with global maps to investigate what factors shape each biome and the types of animals that can be found in differing regions. Secondary topics for discussion will be how animals relate to each other in each ecosystem and the determining factors which shape each biome and their climate.
Water Filtration and Testing: Grades 6-8
This class includes the introduction to water filtration and adds in an experience of testing the water after the team challenge.
Ancient Vermonts: Imagining our State through the Ages: Grades 6-8
Have you wondered if dinosaurs ever lived in Vermont? What about Wooly Mammoths? Is it true that our rocks were once at the bottom of the sea? Were our mountains once mighty volcanoes? Were they later buried by two miles of ice? This lesson will introduce students to the long spans of geological time by helping them to imagine what Vermont has looked and felt like since the dawn of the earth. Plate tectonics, natural climate cycles, and adaptation and evolution are all presented here.
Playing with Light: Grades K-2
How can we take light and move it around? Can we see if there is no light available? We will try to capture light using different materials and see if we can direct the beam. With small solar panels, we will see if we can harness that energy to make a flashlight work.
Boing!: Grades K-2
We will explore the world of sound and understand how our senses perceive these waves. Using different materials, we will experiment to see which vibrate and make a sound.
The Force of Attraction: Grades K-3
What are some of the amazing things that magnets can do? Where do magnets come from and what can you do with them? They are forceful enough to pick up cars and move large, heavy trains at very high speeds. This class will explore the force of magnets and attempt to move things without touching them. Small group activities include discovering what objects are attracted to magnets, what objects will magnetize, and moving small toys cars in the direction and speed that we want.
Have a Ball: Grades K-3
How can you move a ball when it is at rest? Students explore the many ways to do so, then discuss gravity, and friction and how those forces act upon a ball moving down a ramp. They are given materials that can speed up or slow down the movement of the ball and are challenged to work with those variables. Who can move the ball the farthest? Who can slow it down the most? Older students are given a real life problem to solve using the same principles.
Simple Machines: Grades 2-3
Students will be introduced to the six simple machines of pulleys, levers, wedges, wheels, inclined planes, and screws that are the basic components of many familiar machines. The students will then be challenged to use both simple machines separately and together to solve problems in teams.
Catch A Wave: Grades 2-6
Waves are splashing all around us, though not all of them will get you wet. Thousands of different types of waves are found in everyday life, so its time to figure out just what makes a wave a wave. Experiments designed to show the principles of waves will take students from the ocean to the mountains, and from tiniest of insects to the corners of the universe. Weather, astronomy, music, even light all have their connections to waves. So hang on, and we’ll ride this wave together!
Static Cling!: Grade 3
What is static electricity? What is happening when you get a shock or things mysteriously stick to you…? We will explore this form of potential energy and the electron swap happening between two objects to understand it better. Using everyday examples and objects to create static, we will play with the direction and force of this form of electricity without making contact with the objects we are moving.
NGSS Standard: 3-PS2-3
Watt's Zap?: Grades 3-5
Through stories and demonstrations, students are introduced to electricity and the scientists who made important discoveries. Static, DC and AC electricity and the structure of the atom will be introduced and demonstrated.
A Bright Idea! - the Nature of Light and Solar Power: Grades 3-8
In a single sunny day, the earth receives enough solar energy to supply the entire world with electricity for four whole months!! The problem is finding ways to turn all of that light into another form of energy, like electricity or hot water, that we can readily use. What is light? What is solar power? How do solar panels work? Even in our cloudy and wintery climate, many of our neighbors now rely on the sun to supply their electricity and even home heating. Will the sunlight give way to a brighter, and cleaner, energy future? This class will introduce students to the concepts of light energy and photons and explore how their energy can be transformed into other useful forms.
Freezing and Boiling: Grades 3-8
What happens to a substance when it freezes and boils? The best way to find out is to try it. Students will conduct a series of experiments that demonstrate these basic scientific principles.
Measure for Measure: Grades 3-8
What is a unit of measure, and where did our units of measure come from? One of the basic ways we describe our world is by measuring. Virtually everything has a size and a weight. To understand how the systems we now use came to be, students will re-create history by developing some measurement systems in class, including length and weight.
Wave of Communication: Grade 4
Communicating with Audible, Visible and Invisible Energy! Our voices use sound waves to speak words to each other, but what happens when we’re too far apart to hear each other shout? In this exploration of communication, we’ll discover how different kinds of waves, like sound, light, and even invisible radio can be used to send messages to the farthest corners of the universe. Or maybe just to send your friend an emoji! Students will become familiar with concepts relating to wavelength, frequency, and amplitude as well as possibly learning a bit of Morse code!
Energy Antics!: Grades 4-8
Energy is always a “hot” topic in winter. But in recent years, several events have “energized” our awareness on how dependent we are on reliable and affordable energy. In addition, people are looking increasingly to renewable and environmentally friendly energy. This class explores the whole concept of energy, from what it is, where it comes from, and how it dominates everyday life. Classroom demonstrations will expand the principles of putting energy to work - including motion, friction, and heat - to “fuel” discussions on renewable and non-renewable energy sources as students are challenged to develop a better understanding of how they use energy, and what are the consequences.
What's the Matter? The Periodic Table: Grades 5-8
This class is appropriate for students who have had some introduction to the periodic table. Students learn how to read the table in a basic way and use technology to animate the discussion. The class includes hands-on experiences with objects and stories that illustrate the different characteristics of the elements.
The Tiniest Building Blocks: Grades 5-8
Students may have heard of atoms, molecules, nanotechnology, and even the “quantum realm” by now as their presence in popular culture is inescapable. We have reached a point where our machines can build atom by atom, molecule by molecule. This means that we can now build structures and even complex robots that are smaller than what a regular microscope can see! What are nanobots? How will these technologies change our lives? Are they any potential dangers in this new technological revolution? This lesson serves as an introduction to the chemistry of the periodic table of elements and understanding electro-magnetic and chemical reactions.
Simple Machines PLUS: Grades 6-8
Taken our first Simple Machines class? Or want to do both of these at once (for two hours)? This class builds off our first Simple Machines class to give students a chance to review a video where they will call out the number of simple machines used to solve a problem. From there, the class will divide into two groups and build a Rube Goldberg machine out of various items that will move an object using simple machines they create.
NGSS Standards: MS-ETS1-2
Gravity: A Weighty Subject: Grades 6-8
One of the most fundamental, and most mysterious, forces in nature is gravity. While there are some obvious effects of gravity in everyday life, students will work with demonstrations to quantify and predict the effects of gravity in different situations. Concepts will include orbit, weight, and density. Students will apply their new understanding to earth, our solar system and the broader universe.
The Five Senses: Grades K-2
Explore the five senses through hands-on activities: Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. Students will get a chance to use their mouths to taste, their hands to touch, the ears to listen, their nose to smell, and their eyes to find things in the museum's main hall.
NGSS Standards: K-2-ETS1-1
Franklin’s Place: Grades K-3
Learn about collecting and how Franklin Fairbanks applied scientific thinking to the world around him. Using the collections the museum has amassed over the last century, we will focus on the following question at each grade level such as kindergarteners: How do humans collecting animals and plants impact our environment? First grade: How do our observations of our natural world and mimicking nature help inspire us to solve everyday problems. Second grade: We will discuss and see examples how a diversity of life needs a diversity of environments to survive. Third grade: We will look at certain plants and animals moving into the state of Vermont and how they are changing the landscape. For the final activity, we develop our observation skills while sorting and classifying objects using tools like magnifying glasses to highlight small details.
Water and Our Community: Grades K-6
Students begin by brainstorming what people use water for, then are introduced to different categories of water use for agriculture, commerce, industry, domestic and other uses. Using a google image of their own town students identify the location of lakes and rivers in their communities. They build a model of a water system for their community using recycled materials and solve a problem focused on their community water cycle. Younger students act out the story of their community water cycle. Older students work with a diagram of the water cycle to assess understanding.
The First Vermonters: a History of the Abenaki People: Grades K-8
The Abenaki people have lived in Vermont for thousands of years, and they are still here today. By focusing on the individual lives of seven famous Abenakis from different times, we’ll explore how their culture has survived the centuries and evolved to meet the challenges of a changing world. We’ll also discover how the Abenaki Nation has shaped the present and future of all of Vermont’s people.
Putting the Pop in Population: Grades K-8
This classes looks at population growth, starting globally, but then concentrating on the Northeast Kingdom. We challenge students to come up with the resources necessary to sustain our population and whether we can meet those needs from local resources.
Vermont's Human Landscapes: Grades 2-8
Have you wondered how Vermont has changed in the last 200 years? How did European settlers change the natural history of the green mountain state? This class will focus on the destruction caused by the fur trade and clear-cutting industry using stories, photos, and props, as well as how the people of Vermont were able to come together to reclaim the native beauty of the state through conservation and management.
Fish Tales: Grades 3-6
For millennia stories have been told describing our fears of what lies beneath the glossy surface of any body of water. These observations of watery creatures became tall tales of the sea but are based on a reality. Where do these animals come from and where do they live? How do these creatures communicate? What structures allow them to function in extreme conditions? How do we study them in these inaccessible, benthic zones of water? We will look at a few monsters of the deep and compare them to what we now know from scientific discoveries.
Salt of the Earth: Grades 3-8
Salt seems so ordinary, whether it is on the table in a shaker, or spread on the roads during the winter. Yet this common mineral has shaped human history. Its ability to preserve food helped civilizations to rise, but it was difficult to obtain, thus it became extremely valuable. Scientifically, salt is composed of two very toxic, dangerous elements - sodium and chlorine, yet salt is essential to health, making it a chemical wonder. We will season our exploration of salt with helping of history and a dash of science, to whet our appetites for understanding this ordinary, yet extraordinary substance.
Sweet Dreams: Grades 3-8
An amazing amount of rebuilding and restoration happens to your body and brain every night when you sleep. In fact before you are born, you sleep the entire time while cells build your tissues that make up your organs and the functions they will undertake as you mature. Your very health and functioning depend on the amount and quality of sleep you receive each night. Come and see why one of the simplest human behaviors is the foundation for all we accomplish and what might be the very thing that sets us apart from other species.
The Lives of Scientists: Grades 3-8
Do you think scientists are boring nerds who always wear lab coats? Then clearly you don’t know about Hedy Lamarr, a Hollywood movie star who also invented a radio technology to help us beat the Nazis in WWII, and whose inventions are still used in our wi-fi and iPhones! What about “Crazy” Dmitri Mendeleev, inventor of the Periodic Table of Elements, who believed that haircuts and shaving were a huge waste of time! From Madame Curie to Nikola Tesla, come learn about the strange, bizarre, and wonderful humans who made these discoveries, and how their unique stories helped influence the history of all humanity!
Water and Civilizations: Grades 5-8
Using a physical map laid out on the floor, students engage in a simulation that spans the development of human civilization. Beginning in prehistory and progressing into modern times, students learn about the significant roles water and water technologies have played over the course of our history and make decisions about water use and conservation. At all stages, the museum educator asks for justification and reasoning behind their decisions.
Pond Life: Grades 3-8
Students explore a pond site and are introduced to the pond habitat, life cycles, and diversity based on the site being explored. They will collect specimens and describe the density of life they encounter in the pond.
Forest Life: Grades 3-8
Students explore the forest habitat and the differences that occur across the seasons. They look for diversity among plant and animal life, the cycles of life and death in the forest habitat, and evidence of the history of land use in the forest.
Renewable Energy in VT: The Sheffield Wind Farm: Grades: 6-8
Explore wind energy in your backyard with a trip to the Wind Farm in Sheffield, VT. We partner with First Energy to take you to this wind farm for first-hand view of the 16 Clipper Liberty C93 wind turbines that (as a whole) create 2,500 kW of energy. Vermont’s clean energy economy supports at least 19,080 jobs at 3,751 businesses, representing approximately 6 percent of Vermont’s workforce. It also has impacts on ecosystems and water. Museum educators will lead discussions on the benefits and trade-offs of renewable energies such as wind power.
Star Parties: Grades 5-12 (Weather Permitting)
Are you able to gather students and parents after sunset? Help your students to learn astronomy using their own eyes and observation skills with the mentorship of a trained Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium educator. A Star Party is the perfect way to enjoy the starry skies away from bright city lights. Our astronomers can reveal to you and your guests the most striking planets, galaxies, stars, and constellations. We’ll describe events, such as meteor showers, solar and lunar eclipses, andnorthern lights. We’re eager to address your questions and interests.
Intro to Microscopes: Grades K-2
Students are introduced to magnification using hand-held lenses to examine natural objects. They are given close instruction in how to orient their eyes in relation to the lens. The microscope is introduced with attention to its different parts. Students view slides from different natural objects, then make their own slides using newspaper and water. Each observation is reinforced with drawing.
Microscopes: Grades 3-5
Following a review of the parts of the microscope, students view onion skins and their own cheek cells and draw their observations. They have time to explore the practical challenges of using microscopes as they observe the differences between plant and animal cells.
NGSS Standards: 4-LS1-1
Ticks Up Close: Grades 3-8
Students will use microscopes to observe local Vermont tick species, learn how the most common tick species on the East Coast spread Lyme disease, and discuss the many ecosystem and climate factors that control tick populations. This hands-on STEM Lab lesson engages students in using microscopes and then helps them practice numerical skills through object-based graphing. This class was developed as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded project "Real World, Real Science."
Engineering Challenge: Hyrdaulics: Grades 6-8
We will discuss what hydraulics are and then build simple hydraulic machines from kits (wooden with glue) that are operated by syringes connected to hoses filled with water. We can then test how much weight each groups' machine can lift. Thinking about how to support weight, we will talk through bridge building (use an exhibit on the main floor). Students will use materials that include large popsicle sticks and glue guns. Everyone will be restricted to the same materials, so the design is the most important aspect of this challenge.
Introduction to the STEM Lab: Grades 6-12
The Phases of the Moon: Grades K-3 (Taught Only Outside of Planetarium)
This class will introduce students to the phases of the moon, what causes them, and the Earth's orbit around the sun. Students will have a chance to check out their own phases of the moon hands-on with a styrofoam ball and heat-lamp sun. Pair this class with "Bang! Zoom! To the Moon!: Grades K-3" to spend 30 minutes doing each.
Bang! Zoom! To the Moon!: Grades K-3 (Planetarium Class Only)
How does the moon move, and why does it change appearance? The moon is the most easily recognized object in the night sky, as well as the most misunderstood. It changes shape, location and timing, creates eclipses, and is the only other planetary object humans have landed on and explored. The session closes with a viewing of actual moon landings. Pair this class with "The Phases of the Moon: Grades K-3" to spend 30 minutes doing each.
What's Up, Tonight Skies: Grades K-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
This autumn, join a world class presenter in our cutting edge planetarium theatre for a tour of your sky tonight. During live presentation, you can expect to be introduced to seasonal constellations, fly to and explore visible planets, and learn about the latest discoveries from space. Better yet, you’ll walk away with an in-depth knowledge of your autumn sky so that you can identify the wonders of the cosmos in your own backyard.
Bang! Zoom! To the Moon!: Grades 3-5 (Planetarium Class Only)
In addition to the description above, students will see the phases and movement of the moon and learn how sun and shadow affect its appearance. If appropriate, students will be introduced to topics such as the origin of the moon, its gravitational effect and solar and lunar eclipse.
Living In Space: Grades 3-8 (Can Be Taught Inside or Outside Planetarium)
Is it possible that humans might walk on Mars within a decade? NASA and companies like SpaceX are working on plans to put humans on Mars soon, and we already have the International Space Station too! What would it take to live in space, on another planet, or just floating out amongst the stars? In this lesson, we will study the kinds of technologies that will be necessary to support human life, and also the biology and physics necessary to understand why it's so difficult to leave the Earth!
Extra-terrestrials: Finding Life Beyond Earth: Grades 3-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
Science fiction and tabloids frequently tease us with stories about aliens and extra-terrestrials. While you shouldn’t expect a scene out of “Star Wars”, the truth might turn out to be stranger than we thought. Much of this story begins on the Earth, where discoveries of extreme life forms, thriving in conditions once thought of as impossible, have opened our eyes to the potential for life in many parts of the Solar System. After establishing a rough framework for living organisms, we’ll explore some possible locations for similar life forms elsewhere, and use this to consider how life forms would have to be designed to survive certain situations.
Native American Star Stories: Grade 3-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
This planetarium show focuses on a combination of star stories from the Indian nations, offering an introduction to culture in contrast to other versions of star stories. Beginning with our local Abenaki tribe and including, among others, the Cherokee, Onanadaga, Tewa Pueblo, and Klingit, students experience the breadth and scope of the traditions that inform present day and past native culture.
Pluto….At Last: Grades 3-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
After its discovery 85 years ago, and going through changes from a planet to a dwarf planet, Pluto finally arrives center stage. The New Horizon’s spacecraft completes its nine year journey to the mysterious, dark, icy world this July, racing through Pluto and its moons July 14th. In additional to the latest images, explore what we know about Pluto and other icy bodies, find out why it makes sense to classify Pluto as a dwarf planet.
It Came From Above!: Grades 3-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
Most of the Mass Extinctions endured by life on Earth have their origins in outer space. Would you like to know the many ways in which the Cosmos could destroy us? Come learn about the meteors, comets, Gamma Ray Bursts, rogue planets, and even Red Giants that plot our destruction even now…. Can we do something about them? Is there hope for our planet, or are we all doomed?!
The “Stars” of the Show - the Nature of Stars: Grades 3-8 (Taught Only Outside Planetarium)
Gazing into the sky on a clear night, we see countless stars – bright, dim, close together, far apart, and displaying hints of different colors. We might use our imagination to create a picture – a constellation – but exactly what IS a star, and how can we find out? We start with the star closest to us, the one we can observe in the greatest detail….the Sun. In many ways, the Sun is what sustains life on Earth, through a process than sends large amounts of energy without interruption, and without any significant changes. Students will build on this examination of the workings of our Sun to develop a foundation of knowledge about other stars – how they form, what they are made of, and how they work. Students will learn to safely view the Sun, weather-permitting, and will observe (live or through images) details on the Sun’s surface. Students will look at data to discover patterns of solar activity, and then discuss the possible affects of the Sun on the Earth, including recent information about decreased solar activity.
From Stonehenge to the Great Pyramid: Ancient Astronomy Sites: Grades 3-8 (Can Be Taught Inside or Outside Planetarium)
Observing and measuring the sky had a prominent role in nearly every ancient culture. Most importantly, it created a system of time-keeping, necessary for the organization and growth of a large population sharing similar beliefs and principles. These cornerstone concepts led to the construction of structures capable of measuring and marking significant astronomical events – seasons, cycles, and motions in the heavens. Students will start by exploring the relationship with basic astronomy observations and time. Then, they will consider possible ways to measure elements of the skies. That will lead to a discussion of how ancient astronomers designed structures to track these changes over time, including Stonehenge, the Great Pyramid of Egypt, some ancient Mayan sites, and others.
Stars and Shadows: How The Light From Distant Stars Reveals New Worlds & New Mysteries: Grades 3-8 (Can Be Taught Inside or Outside Planetarium)
Since the first discovery of a planet orbiting another star, in 1995, astronomers have discovered over 3,500 new worlds to explore. These exoplanets range from giants many times bigger than Jupiter to dwarves smaller than Mercury, and they orbit stars of many sizes, temperatures, and colors. By understanding how light energy propagates through space, we can discover what covers the surfaces of these worlds, and whether they might harbor life. What would our Solar System look like from light-years away as we progress into being a space-faring civilization. Perhaps the silhouettes and shadows we see might reveal something like possible evidence for the existence of other civilizations. Let’s look at the light and see what we can learn!
Tonight's Skies: Grades 4-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
This class explores the night's skies on the day of the visit in the planetarium and focuses on what can be seen from students' back yards. While touring the night sky, the museum educator will relate what is seen to science, mythology, planetary science, and current events.
Greek Mythology of the Night Sky: Grades 4-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
For students who have been studying Greek myths and legends, the museum educator begins with student knowledge, asking them to retell the stories. The characters in those stories and the storylines are illustrated through star patterns. Students learn that there are three types of Greek myths related to the night skies: explanation myths, myths inspired by the constellations, and myths that use constellations to retell an established story.
Star-Studded Stories in the Skies: Grades 5-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
When we look at a starry sky on some clear evening, we might recognize a few of the patterns we call constellations. These patterns have deep roots, and tap into the very nature of what makes us human. This means that the mythology related to the dozens of constellations we see are more than just stories. Myths are sometimes used to explain natural phenomena, and as such touch upon many aspects of science. They also offer models of behavior and belief, becoming part of rules and laws to govern people. And myths do so within the structure of a story, creating a legacy of literature, and inspiring works of art. This class seeks to broaden our science of astronomy to include history and the arts, so that the stars become a source of interest to everyone.
Introduction to Astronomy: Grades 6-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
Students in this course will learn the basics of astronomy from our own star, the Sun, to the ends of the observable universe. With the instructors, students will explore what lies in our cosmic neighborhood, how to tell an alien where we Earthlings live, and why Earth is a unique place to live. Different subfields of astronomy will also be discussed as a way to broach the interesting different ways we humans discover how the universe works.
The Lifespan of A Star: Grades 6-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
What exactly is a star made of? Where do they come from? What happens when a star "dies"? The lifespans of stars are varied and explosive! Stars come from humble beginnings and make way for numerous stellar bodies to exist. We have lived next to a star since our creation and yet we were not able to answer these questions until recently. In this class, we will study stars from their births to their deaths and the theory of stellar evolution that dictates the outcomes.
Dancing With The Planets: Grades 6-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
It is easy to take for granted some of the basic observations that we make about the sky. We see the Sun move across the sky from east to west. That is what we see, what we observe. But it is really the Earth and not the Sun that is in motion. We can’t feel the Earth moving, and there is nothing we can observe that actually tells us we are moving. We’ll explore this challenging subject of motion in the sky, thinking about the Sun, the Moon, and the planets, and how gravitational energy creates their individual movements – including the Earth’s – as they perform a dizzying dance across the heavens. And their motions may not be what you think.
Myths in the Sky: Grades 6-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
This class is adapted to the knowledge base of the class at hand. For students who have been studying myths and legends, the museum educator begins with student knowledge, asking them to retell the stories. The characters in those stories and the storylines are illustrated through star patterns. Students new to the study of myths learn that there are three types of myths related to the night skies: explanation myths, myths inspired by the constellations, and myths that use constellations to retell an established story.
How to Fly A Rocket To Mars: Grades 7-8 (Planetarium Class Only)
Weather a la Carte: Grades K-3
Pick one of the four areas of weather that will be defined during an hour class and illustrated through hands on activities. The scientific method is introduced or reinforced and applied to weather scenarios.
Weather a la carte: Temperature
Weather a la carte: Wind
Weather a la carte: Pressure
Weather a la carte: Moisture
Introduction to Weather Instruments: Grades K-3
What are the tools weather forecasters use? Learn about thermometers, rain gauges, wind and making observations of the sky. This class includes a visit to the weather shelter where students will see how the tools are used in a real life context.
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!: K-4
What is snow? Starting with the creation of snowflakes, students will explore the storms that make them, and, once on the ground, how snow changes the landscape around us. Younger students will learn how to make six-sided snowflakes, be introduced to the geography of snow, and hear about Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley. Older students will go deeper into snowstorms, geography and snowfall, touching on the connection between snow and the Ice Age.
Weather Instruments and Shelter: Grade 3
Students will view weather instruments in the shelter and learn how they work in relation to what they are measuring. The two tools for weather prediction, the barometer and wind direction, are introduced and given to students when they leave so they can forecast the weather on their own.
How to Make a Forecast: Grades 3-5
What tools and skills do meteorologists need to make a forecast? Learn the tools of the trade of observation, instrumentation, satellites, and radar. The basics of making a weather forecast are illustrated. This class can be adapted to the lower grades, with differences based on their developmental level.
Weather Lore: Grades 3-5
This is a class about ancient science, and how weather sayings were (and are!) used to predict day to day and long range weather. Students are first asked for weather sayings that they know, and those are related to their original uses for farmers and sailors. Students are encouraged to discover the common characteristics of the sayings, for example, rhyme to help memory, and references to natural science such as the sky, animals, insects, and plants. How does the Groundhog do as a weather forecaster? This and other sayings will be analyzed from our current understanding of weather events.
The Weather Versus the Climate: Grades 3-12
In this class we will discuss the differences between weather and climate. This will include discussion of the temporal and spatial aspects of both as well as what measurements differ in importance when describing a given localities climate or weather. For lower grade classes, we will analyze how the weather changes daily versus monthly and yearly. We will also discuss the seasons and Earth's tilt as well as its movement around the sun. For higher grades, we will also analyze the different climate control factors and compare them to the weather.
The Earth's Energy Balance: Grades 3-12
In this class we will discuss the Earth's Energy balance. From the Equator to the Poles, a gradient exists which causes energy transfer in the form of the planet’s wind patterns and ocean circulation. A key topic we will cover includes the greenhouse effect. We will also discuss the impact of human greenhouse gas emissions on this balance. For higher grades, this class will dig deeper into energy and radiational balances.
Day in the Life of a Meteorologist: Grades 5-8
What tools and skills do meteorologists need to make a forecast? Every day there is a new mystery and puzzle to solve. Clues to answering the mystery are taken from observation, instrumentation, satellites, and radar. Two methods of forecasting are discussed: the persistence method that uses the directions of weather movement and computer models that illustrate the changes in weather systems over time. The role of numbers and equations in forecasting are illustrated.
Natural Extremes in Vermont: Grades 5-8
Although Vermont rarely finds itself in the headlines for weather, our recent encounter with Hurricane Irene demonstrates that we can experience severe, damaging and dangerous weather conditions. Severe weather conditions such as tropical storms, heavy snow, ice storms, thunderstorms, and tornadoes are the subject of this class. Through demonstrations and hands-on activities, students will explore the power of nature.
Living in a Greenhouse 1: An Introduction to Climate and Atmosphere: Grades 4-8
In order to understand how our climate is changing today, we should begin by understanding how the atmosphere controls our global temperature. Not just on Earth, but also on Mars and Venus! As the Earth’s atmosphere and tilted axis have changed over time, so has the Earth’s climate. How is the human-caused climate change different from the past episodes of climate change the Earth has already seen, such as the Ice Ages and the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum? This class will be the first in a two part series about Climate Change.
Living in a Greenhouse 2: Combatting and Coping with Climate Change: Grades 4-8
Students should have already taken “Living in A Greenhouse, Part I” or be familiar with the concepts and principles that govern Earth’s atmosphere and climate. As we continue in this subject, this lesson will focus on the outcomes and possible solutions to climate change. It is highly encouraged that students spend some class time “brainstorming” ideas, social or technological solutions, that might help reverse or slow climate change. Students should prepare themselves for this lesson by watching this brief, highly recommended video produced by PBS: “Climate Science: What You Need To Know” http://amzn.to/1wqznCb
By The Numbers: Grades 5-8
This class provides students with multiple opportunities to visualize data around temperature, weather, and climate. Students will be introduced to the Joe's Pond (in Danville, VT) Ice Out Competition, learn what temperature graphs (for a day, week, and year) look like, and then compare these against sea ice data from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The class will conclude with a group effort to graph data from the Joe's Pond Ice Out Competition to examine their own local climate. Complexity in data and climate topics are built throughout the class to help guide students through the stages of perceiving, interpreting, and comprehending big data. This class was developed as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded project "Real World, Real Science."
Weather, Climate, and You: Grades 5-8
Weather, Climate, and You provides an opportunity for students to increase their data literacy skills and an introduction to weather and climate using personally relevant data. The lesson starts with a discussion of measurable aspects of weather. One aspect of weather, local temperature, is used to explore patterns of weather over different time scales: a day, a week, and a year. After creating graphs based on experience, students work with real, personally relevant data—the weather on the day they were born—and add it to a poster of the annual average weather. Once birthday data has been added to the graph, a rich, student-led discussion of averages, both daily and historic, can take place. This class was developed as part of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration funded project "Real World, Real Science."
Simple Models to Explain Climate Change: Grades 7-12
Scientists use models not only to predict possible climate changes in the future but to better understand the nuances and complexity of the global climate system. In this hands-on class, students will work with the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Very, Very Simple Climate Model to reinforce their understanding of how human CO2 emissions impact the global climate. Not only will students be able to see the impact of rate-wise increases in CO2 each year versus total concentrations in the atmosphere, but they will also use an interactive graph to explore the greenhouse effect, climate sensitivity, and the atmospheric fraction of CO2.
Animals in Winter
Ramps and Balls
What is a ramp and how does it make the ball move? With blocks and ping pong balls, we will play with the movement that a ramp can offer.
Pre-K and Up
Grades 3 and Up
Grades 5 and Up
Closer Looks at Exhibits
Beautiful Butterfly Diversity, Animal Photo Scavenger Hunt