A Planetarium for Every Classroom
Building and Using a Planetarium for Your Classroom Using Inexpensive Materials


Now that I got it, what do I do with it?

Once assembled and ready for use, the projector and dome can be used to teach several important mathematics, earth science, and astronomy concepts.

Here is a list of lesson planning ideas you can use in your classroom:

Mathematics Lessons

Scale comparisons, for example:
If the dome were the size of the earth...how big would the moon be?
If the dome were the size of the sun....how big would the earth be?
If the dome were the size of the Milky Way Galaxy...where would the earth be within it?
Surface Area and Volume of a sphere--ask students to determine the number of ping pong balls that fit inside.
Inverse square law: a source of light shining in all directions has its intensity spread over the surface of the sphere. As the sphere gets larger, the light gets less intense in inverse proportion to the area...which is proportional to the square of the radius of the sphere.

Earth Science Lessons
Longitude and latitude - how do they relate to the structure of the sphere as seen from the inside? The vertex is the projector.
Interior Structure of the Earth - How thick is the crust of the Earth compared to its overall volume?

Astronomy Lessons
Learning constellations
Learning to recognize constellations in the real sky is difficult to learn through reading text documents or even with computers. Some people have difficulty making the transition from planetaria to the real sky. Some resources you can use include local astronomy clubs such as those registered with Sky and Telescope magazine at www.skypub.com. Universities may have instructors familiar with the night sky.
One important tool you can use with your students is a planisphere. The planisphere is an adjustable map which can show the approximate night sky from any longitude on earth, on any date, at any time of day throughout the year. Generally, they are designed for a specific latitude and most of the ones you will find are geared toward mid-northern latitudes. Most locations in the continental United States should be able to use a standard planisphere without difficulty.

Here is a list of constellations and stars every planetarium operator should know by heart.
Ursa Major
Ursa Minor
Summer Triangle
Stars (eyes only)

How to use a planisphere

Cut and paste together planispheres can be downloaded from: http://www.lhs.berkeley.edu/starclock/skywheel.html

The planisphere consists of a circular star map, a top cover with a hole in it, and something to hold it all together such as a metal brad in the center of the wheel. If you don’t have access to a planisphere, you can download and make your own using the Lawrence Hall of Science’s “Uncle Al’s Star Wheel” pattern which can be downloaded at the address above. If possible, you should purchase the larger version of the planisphere available from many bookstores and science stores.
To use the planisphere, rotate the wheel until the time you plan to observe lines up with the current date. For example, if you were in Missouri on August 20, you might plan to go out observing at 10 PM Central Time. Then you would rotate the wheel so that 10 PM lined up with August 20. (Since daylight savings time is in effect at this date, you could get slightly more accurate results by setting the wheel for 9 PM. In practice the wheel will display about the same thing.)
Once the planisphere is set, the stars that appear in the hole represent the stars visible from your location at the time and date you have selected.
To interpret the picture, imagine that you take a large wad of Silly Putty and stick it on the planisphere opening. Then pretend to hold the planisphere over your head and stretch the Silly Putty until you have created a spherical dome over your head the size of an umbrella. The star positions in this Silly Putty umbrella will then represent the locations of the stars in the sky.
Therefore, objects located in the center of the hole will be straight up in the sky.
The edges of the hole should be labeled with North, South, East, and West directions. When holding the real (non-Silly Putty) planetarium in your hands, hold the wheel so that the edge labeled “North” is on the bottom. Then face north. Things near the bottom of the opening will be straight in front of you on the horizon. Things on the south edge therefore appear to be upside down; when the map is stretched over your head and behind you, they’ll appear to be normal.
Simply put, you should hold the edge of the planisphere which corrresponds to the direction you are facing on the bottom.
The next task is to find something in the real sky, or the planetarium, which you can recognize. Most people can find the Big Dipper, or, if that is not visible, the constellation Orion (in the winter) or the Summer Triangle (in late summer or fall).
Let’s do a practice problem. Rotate the planisphere until is is set for 9 PM on August 20. You should see the star Vega near the center of the opening.
Vega is one corner of the so-called Summer Triangle, a bright, easily seen feature even from the most light-polluted skies.
According to your planisphere, the constellation Aquila is located towards the south from Vega. If you trace a line from Vega to Aquila, your finger will be moving toward the southern edge of the planisphere opening. Similarly, if you go out and look at the real sky and point at Vega, sweeping your arm towards the south should therefore help you encounter Aquila and Altair, the bright star marking one of the other corners of the Summer Triangle.
Use the Big Dipper to find other objects in the sky. The two stars at the end of the bowl away from the handle are called the pointer stars. If you start from these two stars and use them to establish a line in the sky, the line points to Polaris, the north star (which is usually located at the axis of rotation in a planisphere wheel.)
There are many introductory guides to learning constellations available in any bookstore. However, the main thing to remember is this: Learn a few constellations really well, then use a planisphere to learn the rest. If a constellation appears to be beside the Big Dipper in the planisphere, then it will be beside the Big Dipper in the real sky. This technique of learning constellations is called “star hopping.” For the purposes of public education, if you can learn to recognize the Summer Triangle, the Big Dipper, and the constellation Orion, you can find practically everything else in the sky with little effort--providing you have access to a planisphere.
The same techniques work inside a planetarium, such as the one you may be building since you are visiting this web site.
Thus, without further introduction, we present here a list of constellations and stars you might consider using with your students or for yourself.

Other astronomy topics under development for this web site:
Diurnal motion
Sunrise and sunset changes with the seasons
Effect of latitude on the motion of the stars
Coordinate systems

Planetarium Activities for Student Success (PASS) is a program developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science for astronomy educators. The materials are adaptable to many different grade levels.



Planetarium Production Course Outline

Course Goals and/or Major Student Outcomes
Students will be able to:
1. Evaluate the content and presentation style of planetarium shows and educational materials in the field of astronomy education.
2. Classify the appropriate grade levels for content in astronomy.
3. Create multimedia presentations for use in planetarium shows.
4. Present material in a planetarium for student and public shows.
5. Operate a planetarium correctly.
6. Manage the flow of people into the planetarium, manage the ticket money collected, count the number of attendees, keep books on the funds collected and disbursed, write and maintain a budget.
7. Do research and interviews on up to date astronomy concepts.
8. Be able to explain the major concepts of astronomy and basic physics and chemistry to a lay audience.
9. Create web based, powerpoint, print and other educational resources for use in the classroom.
20. Course Objectives
Planetarium Workshop is course which prepares students to work in a planetarium by giving them opportunities to operate a small planetarium, develop multimedia materials, attend planetarium shows in a variety of venues, and analyze the California science standards for astronomy for all grade levels.
This course will provide students with an opportunity to construct multimedia presentations for use in small planetarium settings. The students will prepare a multimedia program on an astronomy related topic or topic suitable for presentation in a planetarium or science center. Students will develop and extend their knowledge of physics, chemistry, astronomy, and mathematics as they prepare, conduct and evaluate planetarium programs.

Content Outline
1) Review of Basic Astronomy
a) Constellations
b) Stars
c) Planets
d) Altitude/Azimuth
2) Analysis of Professional Planetarium Shows
a) Field Trips to Bay Area planetaria
b) Content analysis
i) Errors and compromises
ii) Audience impact
c) Seating and acoustics
d) After show “night sky” tradition
3) Background Research
a) Selecting a topic
b) Targeting a specific audience
c) Seeking current research in astronomy
d) Interviewing professional astronomers
4) Constellations
a) Learn all 88 constellations
b) Constellation lore from several cultures
c) Asterisms
d) Seasonal changes
5) Star Coordinates
a) Local
b) Equatorial
c) Ecliptic
i) The Zodiac and Astrology
d) Galactic
6) Planets and Moons of the Solar System
a) General characteristics
i) Bode’s Law
ii) Kepler’s Laws
iii) Inferior and Superior Planets
iv) Planets of other solar systems
b) Mercury
i) Temperature
ii) Rotational synchronization
c) Venus
i) Greenhouse effect
ii) Surface characteristics
d) Earth
i) Triple point of water
ii) Double-planet
iii) Geological activity
e) Moon
i) Names of surface features
ii) History of exploration
f) Mars
i) Cultural significance
ii) Potential for Exploration
g) Jupiter
i) Many moons
(1) Io
(2) Europa
(3) Callisto
(4) Ganymede
ii) Great Red Spot
iii) Rings
iv) Space probes
h) Saturn
i) Rings
ii) Titan
i) Uranus
i) Shakespeare
j) Neptune
i) Great Dark Spot
ii) Triton
k) Pluto
i) Charon
ii) Kuiper Belt objects
iii) Is Pluto a planet?
7) Transient Events
a) Comets
b) Meteors
8) Atmospheric Effects
a) Sunrise/Sunset
b) Rainbows and Sun Dogs
c) Moonbows
9) Seasonal Events
a) Stonehenge (advanced)
10) Nebulae
a) Emission Nebulae
b) Dark Nebulae
c) Reflection Nebulae
11) Star Clusters
a) Open clusters
b) Galactic clusters
c) Globular clusters
d) Messier objects
12) Galaxies
a) The Hubble classification scheme
b) Nearby bright galaxies
c) Expansion of the universe
d) The Big Bang theory
13) Developing a Planetarium Program
a) Scriptwriting
b) Timing
c) Public Speaking skills
d) References and Citations
e) Music
f) Special effects
i) Meteors
ii) Diurnal motion
iii) Retrograde motion
g) Advanced Powerpoint skills
14) Developmental Appropriateness
a) Analysis of California science standards across grade levels
Developmental stages from Educational pyschology
15) Planetarium Management
a) Maintaining a planetarium budget
b) Charging and tracking admission fees
c) Seeking external funding- grant applications
16) Culminating Project
Develop and Present a planetarium show to the public or a school
22. Texts & Supplemental Instructional Materials
Resource Material: PASS Chapter outline
1. Planetarium Educator's Workshop Guide
2. Planetarium Activities for Schools
3. Resources for Teaching Astronomy & Space Science
4. A Manual for Using Portable Planetariums
5. Constellations Tonight
6. Red Planet Mars
7. Moons of the Solar System
8. Colors From Space
9. How Big Is the Universe?
10. Who "Discovered" America?
11. Astronomy of the Americas
12. Stonehenge
13. Northern Lights
Audience: Teachers and Planetarium Instructors
Age/Grade Level: Grades K-12
Subject Area: Astronomy and Space Science
Format: Books, 30-70 pages each, b&w photos, illustrations
Price: $11.95 per book; $132.00 per set of twelve
Item Number for Set of Twelve: AST300
23. Key Assignments
1. Students will be asked to create a videotaped concept development movie on a specific topic.
2. Students will be asked to write and produce a planetarium script, related to content standards, on a specific topic. This is a long-term, culminating project.
3. Students will write reviews of public planetarium shows of peers and others.
4. Students will be asked to demonstrate particular concepts in the classroom for their peers.
24. Instructional Methods and/or Strategies
1. Team projects.
2. Internet and library and primary source research.
3. Analysis of standards in comparison to content for shows.
4. Public speaking opportunities; videotape and playback for personal critiques.
5. Creation of digital media in presentation and movie software.
6. Demonstrations of key concepts.
7. Lab activities to reinforce understanding of key concepts.
25. Assessment Methods and/or Tools
1. Written Analysis of planetarium shows (both peer and professional).
2. Peer evaluation and teacher critiques of presentations.
3. Student written assessments used for self-evaluation.
4. The primary method of evaluation will be rubric-based performance assessment.
5. Traditional tests and quizzes over specific content.

Please refer to instructions
27. Context for Course (optional)
This course was developed as a part of Deer Valley High Schools Specialized Secondary Program (SSP) grant awarded by the California Department of Education. This grant provides for the establishment of a Space Academy called the Antioch Space and Astronomy Center for Education, focusing on Earth and Space sciences. The intent is to provide additional electives to encourage students to take additional science elective courses beyond (not necessarily to replace) the traditional science electives students take in high school. The course prerequisite, Astronomy and Space Science, has been taught for several years at DVHS and has enjoyed consistent growth over several years. Two other courses were proposed and approved by the Antioch Unified School District as a part of this grant. They are a Astronomy and Physics Research course and a Marine Science course, which will be submitted to UC for evaluation separately.
28. History of Course Development (optional)
In the late 1980’s, the course author (Jeff Adkins) had arranged for a field trip for students to go to a planetarium. This was at a high school in another state. The trip was cancelled for administrative reasons. Since the students could not go to the planetarium, the teacher decided to bring the planetarium to the students. A homemade planetarium was constructed, and students learned the constellations with it. Later on, the students took the planetarium to local schools to show them the stars as well.
Years later, while working at Deer Valley High School, the course author (Jeff Adkins) and another teacher (Cheryl Domenichelli) wrote and received a grant to develop a web site for constructing homemade planetaria. In the meantime the Antioch Unified School District loaned its Starlab planetarium to DVHS for use in its astronomy course. Students in the astronomy course began piloting the use of student presenters for astronomy content last year and this process continues this year. We have already presented shows to hundreds of elementary and middle school students and have been evaluating the effectiveness of the program and training. Our conclusion was that we could not do as good a job as needed to meet the demand through the part-time efforts as a side project of the regular astronomy course. The students currently working on the project get trained after school on the specific topics being presented because there is not time in the regular astronomy course to go into the level of detail necessary to present stories about every constellation, for example.
Therefore we decided to design a course for the purpose of integrating public speaking, astronomy, research, and analysis of standards to provide participants enough time to learn the background necessary to be a good planetarium presenter. Not only are important academic skills needed for research, documentation of sources, and interpretation, but good organizational and business skills are required to keep the requests for planetarium shows fulfilled.
When the State of California awarded DVHS a SSP planning grant in the late spring of 2002, part of the funds were designated for writing course proposals for new courses. In collaboration with other teachers in the Space Academy program, this course was developed to meet a particular need for advanced students and to encourage other teachers to pursue research-based science education. A survey conducted at the time the grant was written indicated at least one section of the course would be needed to meet demand.



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Deer Valley High School Science Department

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Jeff Adkins

Cheryl Domenichelli



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This project was supported by a County Technology Academy Grant funded by the Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation in cooperation with the Contra Costa County Office of Education.