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Planetarium Classes


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.

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!

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.

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. 

Native American Star Stories, Grade 3 and U.S. History classes

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Dancing with the Planets, Grades 6-8

This planetarium experience explores planetary movement around the sun, progressing from ancient views of the solar system in other cultures to our modern understanding.  

Solar System Safari, Grades K,1

As an introduction to the planetarium, students take a journey from planet to planet.  Students identify rocky planets close to the earth and compare them to gaseous planets further away, exploring why life on earth can exist in contrast to other planets.

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.

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?!

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.

When Juno Met Jupiter, Grades 1-8

On the 4th of July, 2016, NASA's Juno Mission will begin the most ambitious exploration yet of the Solar System's largest planet.  Juno will begin a multi-year survey of Jupiter with an unprecedented polar-orbit, magnetometers and radiometers that can "see" through the viscous clouds, and an High-Definition camera that is likely to discover new features and even new moons! Jupiter will still be visible in our evening skies when this historic rendezvous takes place. 

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)