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Planetarium Classes

Our planetarium presenters are world-class astronomers. We are a highly trained team, enthusiastic to teach you about space science and the stars, planets, and mythology of the night sky.

Our planetarium classes are based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and take place in the Lyman Spitzer Jr. Planetarium. Opened in 1961, it's the only public planetarium in the state of Vermont.

Click here for what's available outside of our planetarium in our museum classes.




What's Up Tonight: Autumn Lights: Grades 1-8

This autumn, join a world class presenter in our cutting edge planetarium theatre for a tour of your sky tonight. During this 25 minute, 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.

NGSS Standards: 1-ESS1-1, 1-ESS1-2, 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

Living In Space: Grades 3-8

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!

NGSS Standards: 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 5-ESS3-1MS-ESS2-2MS-LS2-1MS-LS2-4, and MS-LS4-5.

Seeing! A Photon's Journey Across Space: Time and Mind, Grades 3-8

Follow the journey of a single photon as it is produced in a distant star, before travelling across the vast expanse of space to land on someone's retina. This fulldome planetarium show explores some of the fascinating processes of the cosmos, from astrophysics to the biology of the eye and brain. The show is narrated by astronomer and science communicator, Neil deGrasse Tyson. ​

NGSS Standards: 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

Rosetta: A Lifetime Discovery: Grades 3-8

12 years ago, in 2004, the Rosetta spacecraft was launched from the Kourou cosmodrome, whose mission included rendezvous with the 67R Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet and a controlled landing with the downlink module Philae. Planting an artificial device on the nucleus of a comet is an extremely complex and ambitious task that the European Space Agency had set out to complete and successfully accomplished. The mission of Rosetta is long, but in this 25 minute planetarium show you’ll discover what it might have been like to ride along with Philae as it descended to the comet surface. Join the comet discoverer Klim Churyumov in the story about the origins of the Solar System and life on Earth. Meet the challenges of a 10 year long mission with Rosetta spacecraft and the “Philae” lander. Become the first one to find oneself on the comet surface!

NGSS Standards: 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-PS1-1, MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-3, and MS-ESS1-4.

From Stonehenge to the Great Pyramid: Ancient Astronomy Sites: Grades 3-8

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.

NGSS Standards: 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3

Phantom of the Universe: The Hunt For Dark Matter: Grades 3-8

Phantom of the Universe is a new planetarium show that will showcase an exciting exploration of dark matter, from the Big Bang to its anticipated discovery at the Large Hadron Collider. The show will reveal the first hints of its existence through the eyes of Fritz Zwicky, the scientist who coined the term "dark matter." It describes the astral choreography witnessed by Vera Rubin in the Andromeda galaxy and then plummets deep underground to see the most sensitive dark matter detector on Earth, housed in a former gold mine. From there, it journeys across space and time to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, speeding alongside particles before they collide in visually stunning explosions of light and sound, while learning how scientists around the world are collaborating to track down the constituents of dark matter. To learn more about this show, narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, click here.

NGSS Standards: 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

Stars and Shadows: How The Light From Distant Stars Reveals New Worlds & New Mysteries: Grades 3-8

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!

NGSS Standards: 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2, MS-ESS-1, MS-ESS-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

Dancing With The Planets: Grades 6-8

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. 

NGSS Standards: MS-ESS-1, MS-ESS-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

Extra-terrestrials: Finding life beyond Earth: Grades 3-8

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. 

NGSS Standards: 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 5-ESS3-1MS-ESS2-2MS-LS2-1MS-LS2-4, and MS-LS4-5.

Native American Star Stories: Grade 3-8

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.

NGSS Standards: 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 5-ESS1-2, 5-ESS3-1, MS-ESS1-1, and MS-ESS1-3.

Myths in the Sky: Grades 6-8

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.

NGSS Standards: 5-ESS1-2, 5-ESS3-1, MS-ESS1-1, and MS-ESS1-3.

Bang! Zoom! To the Moon!: Grades 1-3

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. Following the planetarium experience, students use clay to makes a scale model of the relative size of sun to moon, and explore how the moon moves, independent of the earth, and vice versa. The session closes with a viewing of actual moon landings.

NGSS Standards: 1-ESS1-1, and 1-ESS1-2

Bang!  Zoom! To the Moon!: Grades 3-5

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.

NGSS Standards: 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

Tonight's Skies: Grades 4-8

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.​ ​

NGSS Standards: 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

Pluto….At Last: Grades 3-8

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.

NGSS Standards: 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3.

It Came From Above!: Grades 3-8

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?!

NGSS Standards: 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 5-ESS1-2, 5-ESS3-1, MS-ESS1-1, and MS-ESS1-3.

Star-studded Stories in the Skies: Grades 5-8

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.​ 

NGSS Standards: 5-ESS1-2, 5-ESS3-1, MS-ESS1-1, and MS-ESS1-3.

The “Stars” of the Show - the Nature of Stars: Grades 3-8*

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. *(Does not take place in the planetarium)

NGSS Standards: 5-PS2-1, 5-ESS1-1, 5-ESS1-2MS-ESS1-1MS-ESS1-2, and MS-ESS1-3.