What does a K-12 School Planetarium Educator Do Anyway?

Keith Turner, Carmel Clay Schools Planetarium in Indiana, CAPER Team Research Affiliate, planetarium1972@gmail.com 

Astronomy educators and outreach enthusiasts have all sorts of avenues to excite learners about the wonders of the universe—and the K-12 school planetarium is no exception.  So, just what does a K-12 school planetarium director do anyway? 

Here is a typical job description:

The planetarium serves the entire school district and the surrounding community by providing educational opportunities in Astronomy, Earth and Space Sciences, and Geography, among other disciplines. The planetarium is the ultimate extended classroom/immersive multimedia cross curricular vehicle to provide unique learning experiences that cannot be simulated in the regular classroom setting.  This supports a school district’s vision: Experience excellence… Explore opportunities… Realize potential. 


1.         Present programs as part of the Planetarium Curriculum for students of the district of all ages.

2.         Prepare and continuously improve planetarium programs as part of the Planetarium Curriculum for students across the school district.

3.         Produce original programming for the Schools Planetarium Curriculum and public programming.

a. Generate creative concept

b. Develop script

c. Produce narration-secure narrator

d. Produce sound track

e. Add visual material/computer video editing

f. Adapt commercial visual and audio materials for use in the Planetarium

g. Automation of program via planetarium automation system

4.         Schedule and prepare 8 programs for the public during the school year.

5.         Inform the district’s teachers of interesting phenomena in the current sky and of important astronomy and space science news.

6.         Serve as a resource person for students, teachers, and administrators in the areas of Astronomy and Space Science.

7.         Develop relationships with area Businesses and Universities, to partner with and assist planetarium programming resulting in enhanced student learning.

8.         Write and continuously assess and improve the Planetarium Curriculum for the students in consultation with Science Department Chair and Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Superintendent.

9.         Schedule and coordinate all visits to the planetarium by district students

10.       Determine appropriate long- and short-range goals and objectives for the Planetarium in consultation with the Science Department Chair, Assistant Principal, and Curriculum and Instruction Assistant Superintendent.

11.       Advise teachers about curriculum materials and provide recommendations for textbook selection in the areas of Astronomy and Earth Space Science.  This includes developing and maintaining an update website to provide and distribute resources to teachers

12.       Provide in-service activities for teachers about the Planetarium curriculum and areas of Astronomy and Earth Space Science.

13.       Promote the planetarium as an educational and cultural resource of communities in the region.

a. Maintain an email list of news media, outside groups, and interested individuals

b. Publicize planetarium activities and programming

c. Encourage community support of the planetarium

14.       Serve as a resource person for the news media and interested individuals in the area Astronomy and Earth and Space Science.

15.       Supervise the reservation and ticket selling process for public programs.

16.       Order replacement equipment and instructional materials for the planetarium.

17.       Provide statistics on planetarium operation.

a. Use of planetarium by students

b. Program attendance

18.       Maintain the planetarium audio and video systems.

19.       Schedule annual planetarium maintenance for Planetarium Chronos Projector.  Assist Planetarium Maintenance company personnel as needed.  Note:   Be available for 3 days during the maintenance visit and provide building access during this period including weekend and holidays.

20.       Maintain the lighting systems and room lights.

21.       Upgrade the planetarium and associated equipment in cooperation with the Science Department Chair, building Principal, and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum.

a. Develop plans for upgrading planetarium

b. Prepare annual equipment requests

c. Recommend facility modification

d. Supervise installation of equipment and modifications to the planetarium facility

22.       Apply for and write grants to further develop Planetarium and Astronomy curriculum for the district.

23.       Maintain district-owned telescopes; provide training for district teachers in using telescopes.

24.       Provide district students opportunities to use telescopes to view the night sky after school hours.

25.       Serve as a resource for teachers with special topics.

a. Geography: Tropic of Cancer, when and how it was established and named; Arctic Circle, when and how it was established and named; reasons for the seasons; establishment of directions; the concept of time; Lewis and Clark simulated triangulation with stars

b. Chemistry: Lives and deaths of stars

c. Biology: Life in the Universe

d. Physics: Planetary Motion

e. Environmental Science (to emphasize the importance of the Earth and see it from space in order to understand how fragile it is.  Once you compare the Earth to the other planets in our Solar system…the audience will realize we have nowhere else to go if we destroy it)

f. English: certain topics with connections to constellations and mythology

26.       Keep up to date on astronomical concepts, recent discoveries and new science standards.

27.       Evaluate other sources of programming (i.e. look at commercial sources and pre-produced programs.

Special skills required:

1.         Knowledge and skill in teaching students in grades K through 12.

2.         Knowledge in use of the planetarium projector as a tool for teaching elementary and secondary students.

3.         Broad knowledge of audio visual equipment and its use.

4.         Knowledge of computers; building computers; installing and using unique software.

5.         Knowledge and skill in areas of public/media relations and program promotion.

Additional Duties, as Assigned:

1.         Work with and host community groups such as the Boy and Girl scouts in the planetarium.

2.         Sponsor Astronomy club and provide additional learning opportunities for students

3.         Run summer camps in the planetarium.

4.         Host summer campers from the community Parks & Recreation Department.

5.         Work with state and regional Astronomical Society groups to provide outdoor observing opportunities for the district and the community.



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