With money matters being tight these days and high stakes testing all around us, a teacher cannot afford to waste money or the learning time. As with any good lesson plan, there is an anticipatory or motivational teaser to get things started and a conclusion or wrap up activity to tie everything together, so too should field trips follow this pattern.

This is why I have put together some pre and post planetarium visit activities that could be used in the classroom. If you do not use any of the lessons and activities found in the lessons link, or your own material and you don't plan on doing any further exploration into Astronomy except for the planetarium trip, I strongly recommend that you take a short amount of time, following the tips below to orient your students to the trip and what they will see, experience and learn.

  1. Discuss what a planetarium is. View the slide show What's A Planetarium (optional).
  2. Brainstorm about astronomy topics and create a KWL chart.
  3. Have students prepare a few questions about an astronomy topic(s) that interest them.
  4. Follow-up with a short writing assignment to help frame the learning.

Before students arrive, they should be familiar with the questions that need answers. Refer students to their KWL chart.

They will not be able to write anything while in the planetarium as it will be very dark. They will have to wait until after the show to write down information that they learned in the show. Enjoy the show and then ask questions that didn't get answered in the show.

After leaving the planetarium and before boarding the bus back to school, if there is time, have small groups meet to debrief and share what they learned, what they liked/didn't like, and what questions still remain to be answered.

Back at school debrief as a class with each group contributing to the discussion. You may want to use the KWL chart to check off items that students heard about and saw in the show.