Planetarium for Little Kids
(3-6 years old):
Script (30-40 minutes)
- Latitude: Home
- Precession: Current
- Set Sun and sky for today's date
- Time: Just before sunset
- Laser pointer (just one, and make sure you know where it is all the time!)
- Lights up
Dialog is in normal type,
actions for you to do are in italics,
audience parts are in bold italics and indented.
Note: the following script is not meant to be followed word-by-word; rather, use it as a guide.
Embellish it, change it, whatever you feel most comfortable with. We do suggest, however, that
you involve your audience as much as possible. Have them predict results, explain results, use
the laser pointer, make comments, ask questions. A good way to get questions: "Before we
conclude this program, I need to hear 5 questions about the night sky." Also, TRY, to always run the planetarium FORWARD in time when you have people in there. Otherwise, they sometimes get confused about which direction things move. For these small kids, remember that you CAN'T turn off the lights all the way right away. They will get frightened and start screaming. This is the voice of experience. Try to limit the group to 10 or fewer children of this age. It's easier to give everyone a turn, and keep them from getting tired or cranky.
Usually, it is convenient to meet the little ones outside of the building, so that you can introduce yourself, and ask them to be quiet when passing the classroom, and explain to them what's going to happen.
Good morning (or afternoon)!
My name is ______, and I am an astronomer! How many of you have seen stars in the sky?
Ensure an enthusiastic response.
Listen to their stories.
That's great! You guys are practically astronomers already! You've looked into the sky and noticed that things happen! We are going into a place where we can make-believe that it's nighttime and that we can see the stars. How cool is that?
Lots of response to this---they'll tell you where they saw them, how many they saw, who they were with, etc. etc.
Now, be very quiet, because all the big kids are working hard at learning things, and trying to hear their teachers. So we don't want to disturb them. Let's go into the planetarium!
Lead them (slowly) to the planetarium. Remember that their legs are short!
Sit anywhere you like! Take off your jackets and put them under your seat with your backpacks or lunch sacks.
Have any of you been in a planetarium before?
How is this planetarium different than the one you were in before?
Many of them will have been to the Science Center.
Good noticing! Well done!
Seats are layed out differently, for example.
Everyone, look up! Do you see the dome?
Do you think you could touch it?
Do you think you could touch it if you stretched up tall?
Let's try it! Stand up and try to touch the dome. Can you touch it?
Now try jumping up to touch it! Jump, jump, jump! Can you touch it?
Do you think that Michael Jordan could touch it? Even if he jumped?
So the dome must be very high. That's what makes it so good for pretending about stars!
Now, I'm going to turn down the lights a little bit.
Turn off the 'under-the-seat' lights and the ones by the doors. Turn on the stars all the way. Turn down (somewhat) the 'over-the-seat' lights until a few stars 'peek through'.
Can anybody see a star?
What do you do when you see a star in the sky?
That's right! You make a wish! Now, everybody make a wish on your star!
Turn down the lights a little bit more.
This is what the stars look like here in Seattle, because the lights are on. Does anybody know what kind of lights are on in Seattle at night?
That's right, and that makes it so we can only see a few stars!
Now, all the kids, come over here. Move to a place in the planetarium where you can see, for example, Orion, very easily.
I want you to look here in the sky. Draw a circle around Orion with the pointer. Can you see these stars? There's a pattern here. A pattern in stars is called a 'constellation' that's a hard word. Can everybody say 'constellation'?
Streetlights, house lights, car lights, etc. Take all this stuff!
Great! Let's look at this pattern now. A long time ago, people used to think this pattern looked like a man. See, here's his belt, and his shoulders and his knees. Spend some time pointing out the individual stars, and how the torso goes from the shoulders to the belt, and how the legs go. Draw it several times. Can you see a person there?
This constellation is called Orion, and it's an easy constellation to see in the sky, because of the belt stars. Remember it so you can show your mom and dad!
Do a few more constellations, like the Big Dipper, Cassiopaeia, and any others you happen to know. The Pleiades are good, if you ask who's parents drive a Subaru, you can point out that the pattern is the same as on their car. They should look when they get home!
Ok, go back to your seats. Quick, quick! Let them run for a few seconds as they get back to their seats.
Now we've seen some patterns in the sky. Can you find some other patterns? Can anyone see a triangle?
Give the laser pointer to one of the kids who said 'Yes', and have them point it out for everyone else. Repeat for a circle, a square, a snake, other simple shapes.
That's excellent! You kids are terrific! What an excellent bunch of astronomers!
Now, I am going to put the Sun on. Look, there it is! Can you see it?
I'm now going to run time forward, so that we can see how the Sun sets. Run the time until the Sun is low enough to reach. Tell the kiddies to come over and touch it. Where is the light coming from?
Some approximation of constellation
That's right! Now come into the middle, and lie down. We are going to lie here for a whole night! Run the time forward, slowly. Are the stars moving on the dome? Or are you moving?
The machine in the center.
That's what's actually happening in real life! The Earth moves, and the stars just stay in the same place! Wait for the Sun to come up. Look everyone! Here comes the Sun! You've stayed up all night!
Similarly, turn on the Moon, and the planets. Point them out. Ask the kids to name some planets and show the kids how to find them (today). Don't worry about what the planets will do next week or next month. Just show them where they are now, and tell them how cool their parents will think it is that they know this now! Run the annual motion to get the Moon to go around very fast. The kiddies will think this is cool! Ask them to notice what happens to the Moon over time---it gets bigger and smaller. Ask them to invent names for the different phases for themselves. Show them the 'Man in the Moon', or the 'Energizer Bunny in the Moon'. Finally, bring the lights up, and have them simulate the solar system, using the machine as the Sun, and designating kids to be planets. Hopefully you have a small group, and they only have to do this once. If not, have the sitting down ones be stars, while seven or so do the solar system around the Sun. Get 'em running! They'll love it. Then 'let them rest', while the next group does it. Tell them how great they are and what a good job they did. Ask them if they are tired. Ask if they have any questions. If not, thank them for coming, and ask them to be quiet on the way out.
Whoa! I'm going to be sick! Wow!