--to make the most of your visit to the planetarium--

Step 1: Planning Your Visit

You will of course need to decide when you would like to come to the planetarium. And we know you would like to coordinate your visit with your classroom activities. Please make your reservation early. Our fall schedule is usually more open than our spring schedule. See step 2 for more information on making reservations.

Choosing a program

Be prepared to request a specific program (see the Program Descriptions) or be prepared to describe your goals for coming to the planetarium. Our knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to assist you with selecting the best program for your group.

There are two basic categories that programs can be placed into: interactive, and automated multimedia. In addition, planetarium staff can offer Planetarium Labs and Custom Designed Programs to meet the needs of your students.

  • Interactive programs are live presentations in which the planetarium instructor and the students would typically explore a certain subject using the star projector and other projectors. The following concepts are especially suited for this type of program: day/night, phases of the moon, Earth motions, planetary motions, constellation recognition, and studying the current sky.
  • Pre-recorded fulldome programs offer a stimulating array of visuals augmented by a recorded sound track. In addition, there is usually time after the program which can be tailored to suit your needs. If one of these programs fits what you teach, they can be an excellent addition to your curriculum.
  • Planetarium Labs are astronomy activities which take advantage of the capabilities of the planetarium technology to engage the students in concepts which are difficult to visualize elsewhere. The labs currently include Seasons, Spectroscopy, and Lunar Motions. If you have an idea for a different activity, please consult with the planetarium director. In each lab, the students will actually record their own observations and take them back to school. (students should bring a pencil)
  • Custom Designed Programs take advantage of the capabilities of the planetarium technology to engage the students in concepts which are difficult to visualize elsewhere. These programs are developed when existing programs can't be modified to meet the needs of students.

Things to Consider

Deciding what your students will experience at the planetarium should be a combined effort between the classroom teachers and the planetarian with the ultimate goal of meeting the needs of the students. If the programs listed below do not suit your curriculum, then we can discuss ways to tailor a program to fit your situation. There are undeniable advantages to both polished programs and tailored programs.

A polished ("standard") program is one that is developed and refined over time, and takes full advantage of the planetarian's creativity and the planetarium's capabilities. While an interactive polished program can be adapted to fit the needs of an individual class, there are still a limited number of show offerings, and there is a limit as to how much a program can be altered. A tailored program may possibly be created to match the unit that you teach, but aesthetically it may lack some of the smoothness and cohesion of a polished program. Both plans have advantages and disadvantages.

Step 2: Making the Reservation

Have handy the name, address and phone number of your school, the number of people and grade level of your group, the program you've selected (or information on your curriculum needs), and the reservation times that you would like to request. When making your reservation, if you have students with special needs, please communicate those to the planetarium staff so that we may make accommodations.

  • To assist you in making reservations, you can now view our schedule on-line. For details go to our reservations page.

Step 3: Ordering a Bus

ALL GROUPS are responsible for arranging and paying for their own transportation. Call and reserve a bus as soon as you have a planetarium reservation. Note that the planetarium is now part of Nature Net, and you may qualify for up to $80 reimbursement for your bus costs through the Nature Express program.

Step 4: Preparing For Your Visit

Prepare your students for what it will be like in the planetarium. Discuss the planetarium's rules with your students: no food, drinks, gum or candy are allowed in the planetarium; students must stay in their seats during the presentation unless instructed otherwise; students are not allowed to touch any of the equipment without the planetarian's permission. It might be helpful for the students to see what the planetarium environment is like: there is a photo on the General Information page that might help with this. Please discuss with your students the purpose for your visit, and your goals for what the students should see and learn. We encourage participation through group question and answer opportunities, and we encourage students to ask the instructor questions.

If your students have shoes that light up, please consider asking them to wear a different pair of shoes on the day of your visit. If that is not possible, please ask them to try very hard to keep their feet still during the program. Some of the lights on the shoes are bright enough to seem like lightning in the planetarium!

Check to see if the program that you selected has a teacher's guide on our web site. A visit to the planetarium is most beneficial when it is integrated into your classroom curriculum. If a teacher's guide is not yet available, the planetarium staff would be happy to suggest pre- and post-visit activities.

Step 5: Arriving at the Planetarium

Your bus should pull up to our planetarium sign on the Gammon Road side of Memorial High School. Enter through the closest doors to the planetarium sign. You may need to be buzzed in through those exterior doors using the intercom. Inside those doors, the planetarium is 50 feet straight ahead with the entrance on the right side of the hall. Wait outside the door in a single-file line until the door opens (please don't knock until the actual starting time of your reservation). While you are waiting, this would be a great time for students to use the restrooms which are located on each side of the planetarium. When the door opens, enter the planetarium in a single-file line and start filling from the back of the planetarium. If you are traveling to the planetarium via cars during the school day, please park in the visitor parking area closest to the south side of the building, and get a parking permit from the Welcome Center there on that south side. (See the Location page for photos, maps, and more information.) Please present payment for the program as you enter the planetarium if you haven't already paid online.

Step 6: During the Program

Students should remain in their seats. During interactive programs, questions are encouraged throughout the program. For an automated program, questions are welcome during the interactive portions, and after the program. As we ask students to find things in the sky, or make predictions, in general we find that it is best if the teachers and chaperones do not point out those objects or communicate their own predictions. This gives the students a chance to think and find things for themselves. If you must leave the planetarium to take a student to the bathroom, the doors will lock behind you, so you will need to knock when you return. As you re-enter the dark planetarium, please stand by the entrance until your eyes are dark-adapted enough for you to safely return to your seats. 

Step 7: Exiting the Theatre

Once the lights are completely raised, everyone should check around their seats to gather their belongings. And your group should then exit the planetarium in single-file.

Step 8: Following Up

Back in the classroom, you will find it helpful to lead a group discussion, and/or plan an activity linked to the program. We would also appreciate feedback. Thank you!