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Observatory Central > Planetarium Forum > Planetariums as a hobby > Planetarium Presentations ~ programs, education, music, and effects
Ron Walker
I have just confirmed my first show for a home school group. What was most interesting was they wondered if they could have a second show if they went over 25 people. Noe I do have seating for 30 under the dome but I always say 25 because there is always an extra family member or two that just tags along. I had talked with this group in the spring and thought they were no longer interested and then...blam...we want to come and a lot of our group is interested. This should be interesting, especially when they ask what grade level the show is designed for. For this I really have no answer as I give my shows at my grade level. I do try and keep things lite and not buried in numbers as numbers are just a left click away. The idea is to generate interest with that little bit of entertainment mixed in. The main thing that I try to do is "never talk down" to anyone of any age. Since I work at a first grade level I never really have a problem.

Open for discussion.
moonmagic
Wow! What an OPPORTUNITY!

I suggest you gear your show to grades 3-6 (ages 8 to 12). You may want to request that there be no one under 5 years of age.

Home School groups seldom get anything "just for them." You already have the right ideas. Never talk down to any audience. Instead INSPIRE them to meet you at your level. All such groups LACK BASIC SCIENCE....so ANYTHING that enforces basic principles of science is PERFECT. What better teaching tool and special effect than a planetarium projector! Be wary of the science vs. religion aspect of such audiences, although more prevalent in the south than perhaps where you are located.

You will likely find that such Home School groups are STARVED for such experiences and information. Very few college trained Elementary school teachers are given sufficient background and training in any of the Sciences. Outside the occasional teacher who is "science-savvy" most elementary classrooms science instruction consist of "vocabulary words" and "read the Chapter and answer the 4 questions at the end of the Chapter." Teachers sadly lack the training to go beyond this UNTIL students reach the Middle-School years.

Here are just a few ideas to start the thought process. This is not meant to be a show outline, but rather suggestions that you pick JUST A COUPLE of these (OR SIMILAR) concepts and form a show around only a handful. As usual, YOU of all people need no help in using your imagination to create meaningful presentations.

For a little fun....Recreate a summer thunderstorm with lightning and thunder (Don't forget a squirt bottle for a little rain!)

Lead from daytime sky to nighttime. Viewing night sky from city vs. country/mountain/desert location.

Why we experience daily sunrise and sunset.
Why the moon has phases.
Why we have seasons.
What apparent motions do the stars exhibit over a night as viewed from the equator vs. how they look from the North Pole. Show rise and set at equator vs. no rise and set at N. Pole. Talk about "Land of the Midnight Sun."
Latitude (our position on earth) by moving N. Star up and down meridian. Use meridian and machine sun to demonstrate astronomical meaning of AM and PM

Major constellations of winter vs. summer:

Summer: Archer and Scorpion,
Winter: Hunter, Hunting Dogs, and Bull.

Always include Dippers and North Star. (asterism vs. constellation) Explain significance of "North Star"
Hey. THIS is a GREAT place for the famous "Fred the Bear" story. Earth bears have SHORT tails, Sky bears have LONG TAILS.

Why some stars appear different colors.
Explain what a planetarium projector is and the basics of how it works. Show them a star lamp.
Explain the purpose of the planetarium's "eye-lids"
Use orrery to discuss planetary motion. Explain shape of orbits and relative speed of each planets orbit of the sun.
Teach them the names of the planets in order from the sun. (My Very Educated Mother, Just Served Us Nine Pizza's, etc) Don't worry about Pluto issues.
Explain why a planetarium does not show planets past Saturn.
After the show plan a "hands-on" project that they can take home with them (My favorite is to make circular star charts.- takes about 30 minutes).

Don't worry about trying to cover EVERYTHING in just one show....rather concentrate on teaching just a few concepts, but teach them in significant detail.
(Better to teach one chapter out of a book well, than to cover all the chapters poorly).

Start with YOU defining for YOURSELF what your OBJECTIVES are. Then, what methods will YOU USE to demonstrate them? Finally, what methods will you use to determine IF they have achieved understanding. 30-45 minutes is sufficient. Remainder of time Q&A and hands-on project. (Average attention span of elementary aged (6-12 yr. old) child is about 22 minutes. REMEMBER: "SCIENCE" IS A VERB! A verb is action...that means DOING not just sitting and listening.
Even adults like hands-on projects. You are also HELPING a Home School teacher by setting an example for them. Don't forget to help teach the teacher, as you have equipment and a facility that they will likely NEVER have their own private use of.

Again, yet ANOTHER great OPPORTUNITY for your STARS to SHINE! mm
Ron Walker
Great Stuff MM, but who is Fred the bear???

Yes this is going to be a great experiment and a direction I want to go in this year. I have a gut feeling that whatever the number that show up, the buzz will get back to others and this might grow. I was actually a bit surprised when they talked about a second show if the group grew over 25. They are posting on their web site and the interest from individual families is growing.
SteveDurham
My 2 cents.....a rose is a rose is a rose.....holds true of everything astronomy. It is all about the facts, and my experience is that where the night sky is concerned all anybody wants are the facts. AND the fact facinate everyone regardless of age, religion, race or any other term one could use to further divide the human race! The biggest problem with school related events is there is no longer much reason to learn about the night sky, nor the time to spend on it when one considers "teaching to pass the test", just not many, if any, questions on astronomy. Keep doing what you are doing and remember once the lights go down we are all just a bunch of kids in the dark, scared as heck, and hoping someone knows the way forward. In this case, Ron, Moon, and Gare, it is us.
marness
Thanks for the helpful insights and great program outline! I've given a few shows off the cuff by way of practice for re-opening of the Arthur Storer Planetarium in Calvert Co, MD. What I found folks very positively responded to was small anecdotal stories that make the stars and their names relevant, e.g., "Here's Orion, the hunter, swinging his club at the helpless hare, Lepus, which runs beneath his feet pursued by the hunter's two dogs; in the little dog, this star, Procyon means 'before the dog' because it would rise first and herald the coming of the Big Dog, Sirius, which marked the beginning of fall harvest season in the ancient world," which makes people instantly realize that Sirius rises beginning in Autumn, is a winter sky star in our hemisphere, and was agriculturally useful! The vignette of a hunter and his prey brings the four constellations together neatly. In the big dipper I explain why an asterism is not a constellation, and also tell them about Mizar, and how it was a vision screening test for Persian military service, as a nearsighted person cannot distinguish the visual binary (in fact a double binary!). I also like to point out Vega in Lyra, and tell folks that in a mere 26k years or so it will become the North Star, by Earth's precession, which you can show by swinging the projector, people think that's pretty neat because most had no idea there's so much wiggle in the Earth! They really like to see the annual motion of the planets, and I get a lot of OOhs and AAhs when retrograde motion occurs. Any more tips and fun facts you care to share will be greatly appreciated, I am the rankest of novices! BTW, Storer was Maryland's first astronomer, a close friend and colleague of Isaac Newton, with whom he frequently corresponded about the unspoiled view of the night sky in the New World back in the 1600s. Our planetarium was mothballed for about 15 years or more, I think last operations were in 1999. Mark in MD
Ron Walker
Shows what I know. I always thought that Orion was using his club on Taurus The Bull, trying to save the seven sisters from whatever Taurus had planned for them. People really do like the stories as I even ask the question as what we would name the constellations today. I start with Cassiopeia the big "W" in the sky and tell them it is the Walker constellation under my dome. I also rename Orion the Pool Table as there is a red ball in the upper left pocket and a blue ball in the lower right pocket and Orion's sward is a pool cue stick that is ready to hit the cue ball and make a combination shot. People always laugh at this so I use it a lot. The biggest thing is to keep it light if it's a general audience.

With the Star of Bethlehem show that I'm doing now, the procession shift plays a bit of a roll in that the sky moves enough to allow a view of the southern cross at the latitude of Bethlehem. People really love stuff that has fewer numbers and are just fun. I'm going to do a chart to see which topics have done the best and worst but it is very hard to give any trend with just one set of shows per given topic.

On another topic, I have looked back over this post and the great anticipation with the home school group seem's to have died a quick death. They came, they saw, they enjoyed, and not a word since, one way or another.
charles jones
Just an experiment to try in one of your shows, particularly with children present. This is something that you couldn’t do in a public planetarium. Explaining how the planetarium recreates the motions of the earth, ask if someone would like to take the controls and advance the planetarium day another day. I know this is scary, but with your guided hand, I think kids would stand in line to operate the projector.

Kids are all “hands on” today.

Hand out an arrow pointer (laser, whatever) and have them trace out the constellations. Don’t intimidate, but demonstrate and have them follow. Then see if another can do it on their own. This will create interest. Kids particularly like to participate and volunteer. "I want to do it. I want to do it." As for adults, they’d rather sit back and be entertained.

marness
Yeah, home school groups tend to be like that... burst of initial enthusiasm followed by complete disinterest. Personally I question the well-intentioned but exhausted parents that choose to add tutoring on top of all the chores of daily living, working, cleaning house, picking up after the little darlin's and feeding, clothing and bathing them all in a single day, day after day!? There's something to be said for a regulated curriculum... I like the idea about Orion = 'pool table with red and blue pockets', I'll use that tyvm!! I might offer to let some kids drive the projector after I learn to drive it myself! If anyone is willing to chat call me at 443-975-5374, I need guidance on precession and daily/annual motion, I'm making it up as I go along and the manual is really an unhelpful tech journal!
Had another great show last week and we're off this week by happy coincidence the blizzard of the century is blowing horizontal driving snow outside atm!
Ron Walker
QUOTE(marness @ Jan 23 2016, 08:27 AM) *
Yeah, home school groups tend to be like that... burst of initial enthusiasm followed by complete disinterest. Personally I question the well-intentioned but exhausted parents that choose to add tutoring on top of all the chores of daily living, working, cleaning house, picking up after the little darlin's and feeding, clothing and bathing them all in a single day, day after day!? There's something to be said for a regulated curriculum... I like the idea about Orion = 'pool table with red and blue pockets', I'll use that tyvm!! I might offer to let some kids drive the projector after I learn to drive it myself! If anyone is willing to chat call me at 443-975-5374, I need guidance on precession and daily/annual motion, I'm making it up as I go along and the manual is really an unhelpful tech journal!
Had another great show last week and we're off this week by happy coincidence the blizzard of the century is blowing horizontal driving snow outside atm!


What projector do you have and can you post a picture of the control console.
marness
QUOTE(Ron Walker @ Jan 23 2016, 01:53 PM) *
What projector do you have and can you post a picture of the control console.


Spitz 512 sorry no pics and buried under snow atm! Controls for projector include Daily/Annual motion, precession, latitude.
I've been able to project typical winter sky with hunter, bears, 'W' Cassie, and got 4/5 planetary motion with annual.
TBVH not sure exactly what I'm doing just been fooling around with it is there an online resource on operation?
Ron Walker
QUOTE(marness @ Jan 23 2016, 12:21 PM) *
Spitz 512 sorry no pics and buried under snow atm! Controls for projector include Daily/Annual motion, precession, latitude.
I've been able to project typical winter sky with hunter, bears, 'W' Cassie, and got 4/5 planetary motion with annual.
TBVH not sure exactly what I'm doing just been fooling around with it is there an online resource on operation?


Unfortunately no online source on operation that I ever found. We all kind of wing it. Most of these machines are very intuitive and easy to operate. When things stop operating you just have to trace the wiring and make sure power is getting to where it needs to be.

I have never had the pleasure of working with the 512 or 1024. I do know that the control console just generated control voltages that were used to drive the electronics which were under the actual projector. These in turn provided the real power to run the unit. Spitz went over to small stepper motors with the 512 that have a lot less power then the DC motors of the A3P. Because of this you must make sure that the projector is literally in perfect balance across the rotational axes. If not, the motors just won't move anything. I would imagine that there is just one variable frequency power supply for the planet analogs (if they still use synchronous AC motors in the 512) and the ones that don't work could be as simple as an inoperative relay. And then do the analogs not move at all or do they just not project the planet out on the dome? It is interesting that in the 512, Spitz used only one central lamp for all of the planets. There are small mechanical devices that block off the light from the lamp for each projector. If the analogs are all indeed moving together, it could be that the problem for the not projecting planets is one of these devices not opening.

Since I've not actually worked with one I could be all wet on what I'm saying. Do you have any schematics on the projector?
Ron Walker
QUOTE(marness @ Jan 3 2016, 05:13 PM) *
Thanks for the helpful insights and great program outline! I've given a few shows off the cuff by way of practice for re-opening of the Arthur Storer Planetarium in Calvert Co, MD. What I found folks very positively responded to was small anecdotal stories that make the stars and their names relevant, e.g., "Here's Orion, the hunter, swinging his club at the helpless hare, Lepus, which runs beneath his feet pursued by the hunter's two dogs; in the little dog, this star, Procyon means 'before the dog' because it would rise first and herald the coming of the Big Dog, Sirius, which marked the beginning of fall harvest season in the ancient world," which makes people instantly realize that Sirius rises beginning in Autumn, is a winter sky star in our hemisphere, and was agriculturally useful! The vignette of a hunter and his prey brings the four constellations together neatly. In the big dipper I explain why an asterism is not a constellation, and also tell them about Mizar, and how it was a vision screening test for Persian military service, as a nearsighted person cannot distinguish the visual binary (in fact a double binary!). I also like to point out Vega in Lyra, and tell folks that in a mere 26k years or so it will become the North Star, by Earth's precession, which you can show by swinging the projector, people think that's pretty neat because most had no idea there's so much wiggle in the Earth! They really like to see the annual motion of the planets, and I get a lot of OOhs and AAhs when retrograde motion occurs. Any more tips and fun facts you care to share will be greatly appreciated, I am the rankest of novices! BTW, Storer was Maryland's first astronomer, a close friend and colleague of Isaac Newton, with whom he frequently corresponded about the unspoiled view of the night sky in the New World back in the 1600s. Our planetarium was mothballed for about 15 years or more, I think last operations were in 1999. Mark in MD


For what it's worth department, I believe the Polaris will again be the north star in 26K (25,800 but who's counting) years. Vega will be in 12 or 14 K years. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here.

All fun stuff here. I never thought about using the precession in a show other then the Christmas show, I must consider that.
marness
QUOTE(Ron Walker @ Jan 23 2016, 08:50 PM) *
For what it's worth department, I believe the Polaris will again be the north star in 26K (25,800 but who's counting) years. Vega will be in 12 or 14 K years. Someone correct me if I'm wrong here.

All fun stuff here. I never thought about using the precession in a show other then the Christmas show, I must consider that.


Ah ya, I stand corrected it's halfway through a swing atm!
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