Content on the Solar System is firmly embedded in
the National Science Education Standards and in Benchmarks for Science
Literacy, which typically serve as cornerstones for the Earth and
space science curriculum in school districts nationally. Solar System
content is introduced in grade K-2 through explorations of what’s
up in the sky; addressed in grades 3-4 through patterns and cycles
in the sky; a comprehensive study of the Solar System is conducted
in grades 5-8; and the Solar System is placed in the context of
the greater universe at the high school level.
A significant percentage of the visitorship to museums
and science centers are school groups. Additionally, professional
development for teachers of science, delivered by museum educators,
is often a substantial museum activity. A museum or science center
must therefore be responsive to the school district’s curricular
needs in science education, and Solar System content is a core element.
The museum or science center has the means of extending the classroom
experience with its unique assets, and in the case of Solar System
content, these assets likely include: galleries and artifacts, tours,
planetarium programs, IMAX films, outreach programming to local
area schools, public and family events, and professional development
The Voyage exhibition and the related educational
materials and programs provide an extensive suite of Solar System
content to support free-choice learners, school groups, and professional
development of educators, as well as provide a bridge across other
Solar System learning assets. Some examples:
- Voyage provides the visitor a true sense
of the Solar System, which cannot be achieved within the confines
of a gallery. It is the ultimate Solar System learning experience.
The exhibition provides a wonderful context for an understanding
of what we have learned about the Solar System and how we have
- In a museum or science center gallery you might
see a replica of a spacecraft sent to Mars, or a set of large
spheres identifying the relative sizes of the planets. Voyage
extends that experience by providing context, i.e.,
a good sense of how far the spacecraft actually traveled, and
the reality of small planets in a vast space. Voyage
also provides a context for current events, e.g., the
New Horizons spacecraft headed for Pluto, and Cassini in orbit
around Saturn. Voyage allows the visitor to boldly see
what it means for the human race to send a vehicle to another
world, particularly one in the outer Solar System.
- Tours of the exhibition can be conducted by museum
educators and docents that provide connections to relevant galleries
- Voyage extends the learning experience to outdoor
spaces and provides something for visitors to do before the museum
opens for the day, and after closing. It also can provide both
a pathway to the gate, and to other sites in the vicinity of the
museum or science center.
- Voyage was designed as a Solar
System laboratory, allowing inquiry-based exploration through
a suite of activities for the visitor. The activities facilitate
observation and interpretation from different locations in the
Solar System. These include, e.g., variation in the angular
size of the Sun; exploration of which planets can and cannot be
seen in the midnight sky if you lived on a planet of your choosing;
and the travel time to a planet for a spacecraft, as well as for
light—which enables radio communication with a spacecraft.
- Museum educators can provide regular professional
development to grade K-12 educators on a suite of Voyage
lessons that can be used before and after an on-site tour of the
exhibition, and are comprehensive enough to be used by the school
district as some or all of the space science curriculum.
- A high school and undergraduate ‘explainers’
program can be created where area students are recruited and trained
to provide public tours throughout the summer, and tours for elementary,
middle, and high school classes throughout the academic year.
The tour guides serve as exceptional role models. Becoming a tour
guide might also fulfill a community outreach requirement for
- Training for tour guides can be done by museum
educators, and if requested, by Voyage program staff.
The training can be based on the tour and activity brochures,
the grade K-13 lessons, and the professional development workshops
that have already been developed for Voyage.
- Voyage program staff can provide training
for museum educators, docents, and lead science educators from
area school systems.
- Public and or family evenings can be held regularly,
with a tour of the exhibition, tours of relevant galleries, family
science activities already developed for Voyage, a talk
on Solar System exploration by a researcher, and night viewing
of the sky. This could be advertised to the public, or done as
a family field trip for area schools. The Voyage program
team has overseen a program similar to this for 14 years at the
Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.