Community Event

Plan a Trip to a Planetarium or a Science Museum to Learn About Outer Space

There are rocks all around us, and rocks always tell us a story about chemistry. The story often covers hundreds or thousands of years. What is the neatest rock you have ever seen? What features made that rock so interesting? What did you learn about that rock?

There are many places where we can see some amazing rocks and learn about how they were formed and what elements and compounds are present in them. A good place to start would be a natural history museum. There are natural history museums in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; most of them have collections or displays of rocks. Colleges and universities may have rock collections, especially if they offer programs in geology or earth science. Sometimes “rocks” can be very large. Mountains, hills, hoodoos, and natural arches are larger forms of rock. Most of the US National Parks contain interesting rock formations. Park rangers can teach you about the history, composition, stability, and noted movement of these formations.

There is no better place to learn about the beauty and majesty of outer space than at a planetarium or a science museum. Planetariums are astronomical theaters: they hold whole galaxies, and they take us out of light-polluted cities on adventures through space to learn about stars, black holes, meteors, and more. You may also learn about how these objects were formed and about what elements and compounds are present in them. There are either planetariums or science museums in almost all of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Tips for Organizing an Event

Before the Event

  • Contact planetariums or research science museums in your area. Do they have established programs, tours, or presentations about outer space, stars, and galaxies? Can they customize their program to the age group of your participants? Is there an admission charge? If yes, can they extend a discount to event participants or could they bring a presentation to another site where there would not be an admission charge? Are there special “free days” for the local community that could allow free admission for event attendees?
  • Once the location and date of the event are settled, communicate event details to as wide an audience as possible. Use websites, email, flyers, and social media. Ask local teachers to inform their students about the event.
  • Arrange for some adults or college students to serve as chaperones. Scout leaders, coaches, parents, and astronomy/space science students would help young attendees learn about outer space.
  • Watch for news stories involving outer space, such as updates about the International Space Station, newly discovered planets, or comets.

During the Event

  • Divide attendees into smaller groups of appropriate size. Planetarium or museum personnel can suggest a good number per group.
  • Consider providing a sheet with questions that the young attendees could answer during the event.
  • If time permits and there is appropriate space, ask groups or individuals to draw pictures of their favorite part of the event. Ask participants to take photos (if allowed) of their favorite exhibits.

After the Event

  • Suggest that participants check a book out of their local library and bring it home to read.
  • Ask participants if they would be interested in drawing a picture and creating a short poem describing their favorite exhibit. Award prizes for the best drawing/poem and enter these in the NCW 2018 Illustrated Poem Contest.
  • Share drawings or photos with family and friends!

When we look up to the night sky, we are seeing outer space. It's amazing how much there is to learn from objects that are so far away from our Earth. You may be surprised that all of the elements that make up the planets and stars are chemistry. Chemistry really is out of this world!

themed artwork